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Pool attendant saves two tourists with newly-installed life preservers

BAL HARBOUR

A pool attendant saved two tourists, thanks to the village’s new life preservers.

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
A pool attendant at a Bal Harbour hotel rescued two tourists from the ocean using the village’s recently installed life preservers.

Dutch tourist Bart Van Kambam, 65, went out for a swim behind the Sea View Hotel, 9900 Collins Ave., on Nov. 13.

Van Kambam was caught in heavy currents. His wife saw him start to wave and yell for assistance. She turned to another tourist, Dennis Fosberg of Boston, who was already in the water. Fosberg tried to save Kambam, who was about 75 yards from the shore.

But Fosberg, 60, became exhausted fighting the current and called for help, too, said Bal Harbour Police Lt. Charles Merrill.

Sea View pool attendant Christian Gonzalez saw the men, grabbed two village life preservers and swam to the rescue.

“I had a nice shock, but we survived and we are happy with that,” Vam Kambam said in a phone interview. “This was a miracle that I survived this.”

At the Nov. 16 council meeting, council members and village police awarded Gonzalez, 23, with a plaque for his life-saving effort. His father Miguel Gonzalez also attended the meeting — as did the men the younger Gonzalez saved.

After the meeting, the three men had dinner at the hotel, courtesy of the Sea View.

“The waves and currents were strong,” said Christian Gonzalez, a tae kwon do national champion in his native Puerto Rico. “All I thought was about saving their lives. I never thought of my life being at risk; I just needed to save them.”

Vam Kambam applauded Gonzalez’s strength.

“He is strong”’ he said. “Without conditioning, he wouldn’t have made it.”

Five months ago, the village installed 10 life preservers on poles along the nearly mile-long stretch of beach.

The life rings are installed near the emergency “code blue” telephones as well as on walking paths leading to the beach.

This is the first time the life preservers have been used in an emergency, said Merrill who advised swimmers to be cautious of the water.

“The waters have been choppy this time of year, the rip currents are stronger on some days than others,” he said.

It was also the first time Gonzalez, a student at the Miami International University of Art and Design, has rescued anyone.

“All of my friends and family are proud of me,” he said.

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