‘Pretty Much Limp’: Former NFL Star Describes Saving Niece And Son From Drowning After Weeks In ICU

Screenshot/Twitter/ABC News via NFL_DovKleiman

John Oyewale Contributor
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Former NFL running back Peyton Hillis recounted Tuesday how he saved his son and niece from a rip current on a Jan. 4 family beach day in Pensacola, Florida.

Speaking with “Good Morning America” co-anchor Michael Strahan in an exclusive interview, Hillis said it was “100% a miracle” that no lives were lost, according to ABC News.

Hillis took his three kids and niece to play at the beach on a “windy” but “beautiful” morning despite a “bad storm” the night before, according to the outlet. Hillis reportedly saw no surf warning flag on the beach and no lifeguard around. Hillis’ mother, who joined the family on the beach, noticed Hillis’ niece and son flailing their arms as they struggled with the rip current sweeping them away from the shore.

Hillis describes the moment when he had to swim past his son to save his niece, who was much farther off, as the “scariest point,” according to the interview. After having pushed his niece to safety on a boogie board supplied by a bystander, Hillis battled the waves as he carried his son, who was “pretty much limp” with his eyes starting to “roll back in the back of his head.” (RELATED: New York Firefighter Drowns While Trying To Save Daughter from Rough Currents)

Hillis passed out and his lungs and kidneys started to fail. He was airlifted to the hospital with the help of emergency services, where he regained consciousness after 10 days and spent two weeks in intensive care with support from his family, per the news report. Now recovering, he said the incident has taught him to always prioritize family and calls for people to “respect the water.”

Local authorities said they were patrolling nearby during the incident, according to the news report. They added that the nearest surf warning flag was a mile away from the location of the incident, however, beachgoers should always use their “best judgment when determining” the conditions, ABC reported.