“They were saying, “Help, he can’t swim anymore,” the 21-year-old said.
“I didn’t know what to think,” he added. “I didn’t know if they were playing around. You see more people messing around than need help.”
Moments earlier, Carter had seen two men racing across the lake. During the return lap, one of the men — identified as 22-year-old Gerald Pena — began to drown.
As Carter swam toward Pena, it became clear that Pena was losing consciousness.
“He was underwater, but I could
see him,” Carter said. “His head
was completely under the water and he was purple.”
Carter kept the drowning man afloat as two of his friends from Tracy, 18-year-old twins Joshua and Jacob Sale, paddled out in their raft.
“I held him up and I saw my girlfriend’s brothers come out,” he said.
Because the raft was too small to hold the brothers and Pena, Carter said he held him over the side as they made their way back to shore.
“As we were bringing him back, I heard him coughing up a little,” Carter said. “He wasn’t responsive, but he was gasping for air.”
Back on shore, some members of Carter’s girlfriend’s family, who are nurses, helped Pena until a ranger and local firefighters arrived.
Pena was treated at a local hospital and released. He reportedly returned to his campsite later that night.
Carter’s mother, Tracey, said her family had no idea about her son’s heroic actions until a letter arrived Aug. 13 from Andy Katz, the president of the East Bay Municipal Utility District board of directors. The utility district owns Lake Camanche.
“He didn’t say anything at the time,” Tracey Carter said. “I’m extremely proud of him. I think it’s just fantastic what those guys did.”
In the letter to Tyler Carter, Katz wrote: “Calaveras Consolidated Fire District, Amador Post 108 Paramedics and the Amador Sheriff’s Boating Deputies complimented your quick response, stating that the rapid rescue and first aid saved Mr. Pena’s life. If not for your heroic efforts, a tragic incident would have occurred.”
Carter said he did what he hoped anyone would under the circumstances.
“I don’t consider (myself a hero),” he said. “It was all about being in the right place at the right time.”
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.