VIRGINIA BEACH -- People along the beach near Lynnhaven Fishing Pier Thursday saw a throng of emergency workers heading for the water Thursday afternoon, many assuming they were trying to find a missing swimmer or boater. Instead, crews were there to rescue a girl entangled in a boat propeller.
'We heard them ask on the radio for a chaplain to be brought, and we thought, at that point, things had take a turn for the worse,' said Carla Grassia.
Many emergency workers used her towels that lay on the sand as they put on their equipment.
'It was just disheartening,' Grassia told 13News. 'We just kind of said a little prayer ourselves and hoped that everything was okay.'
Emergency crews got the call about the entrapment at about 2:00 p.m. Several other people were on board with the girl. A police unit took them to a nearby marina as crews worked to free the teenager.
'My heart just sank, because, like, oh, my gosh. That could have been one of ours,' Jennifer Altamura told 13News.
She, her husband, and their children live along the stretch of beach off which everything happened.
'Just seeing it right here was very crazy, very upsetting,' said Altamura.
EMS division chief Bruce Nedelka said crews propped up the victim as they worked to get her loose from the propeller, which had her by the upper thigh. Rope also was entangled in the propeller. The teenager was conscious and alert.
Because of her injury and because of the way the propeller had her leg, crews had to dismantle the propeller. After freeing her, they put her on a boat and rushed her to shore where Nightingale was waiting to fly her to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
Beachgoers stayed fairly quiet as crews worked to save the girl, but when they got her to the beach, the small crowd burst into applause.
'Once we saw the boat coming back, we were just really relieved that she was okay,' said Meredith Blumling.
Her friend, Ashley DeShazor, noted some of the applause was for the emergency crews.
'They work so hard and diligently at what they do,' DeShazor explained. 'They deserve to know that what they do is so appreciated.'
The Virginia Beach Police Department's Marine Unit is investigating.