The jet ski without a passenger aboard first caught their attention. The cry for help a moment later triggered their trained response.

“I saw two people who had fallen into the water drifting away from their jet ski,” said Brandon Schliecher, who, up until then, had been enjoying a quiet weekend before spring semester finals fishing in Key Largo with two of his classmates from the Broward College Emergency Management Technician (EMT) program. “I immediately dove off the dock and started swimming toward them.”

About a ¼-mile out, the two passengers who had fallen off the jet ski were struggling to stay afloat. Neither was wearing a life jacket.

“They were yelling and waving their hands like crazy,” said Jessica Desjardines, who ran to get more help along the beach. "If Brandon hadn't dived in to get them, they would have gone under and drowned.”

Instead, Brandon swam to them, grabbed them both, and started swimming back to shore. A kayaker, sensing the panic, paddled out to Brandon and took one of the victims on board. Brandon then continued swimming. Meanwhile, D’mitrius Estevez, another EMT classmate, grabbed a buoy and swam a hundred yards out to help Brandon. Jessica met them in waist-deep water.

All three then dragged the worst of the two victims onto the beach. With a severely high heart rate and hyperventilating, the students coached his breathing and provided emotional support until paramedics arrived. Later that night, the students were told the victims were in the hospital, stable and soon to recover.

Happy to Help

“It made us feel pretty good, considering emergency medical services is the field we are going into,” said Jessica, who, since she was a kid in scouting, has always been the first to arrive on the scene with a medical kit in hand. "We jumped into action, and we knew what we were doing in an uncontrolled setting to successfully rescue two victims from drowning."

The one-semester EMT program leads to an Applied Technology diploma while providing basic training in life support skills for entry-level employment in emergency medical services. Not only has the program prepared the students, but each also agreed it is providing a springboard for them to do what they enjoy most.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people,” said Brandon, a public lifeguard in Pembroke Pines. “My dad is a firefighter in Miramar, and I grew up around the fire station. I’ve always known helping people is what I’ve wanted to do.”

If saving lives sounds like a rewarding career, Broward College offers the education and training required for EMTs, paramedics, and those pursing an Associate of Science degree in Emergency Medical Services. Learn more.

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