By TERRY GROOVER
and GLEN MILLER
The El Reno Tribune
Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time is the most important thing.
That was the case Thursday for Yukon Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Simeroth and his family, who were spending the afternoon at Lake El Reno working on a boat.
Had the COVID-19 pandemic not happened, they would have instead been in Colorado Springs, Colorado, preparing for their daughter’s wedding.
But, because they were at the lake, Simeroth, his son Dawson and daughter Summer, were able to help rescue two El Reno teenagers who drifted into deep water on air mattresses before being flipped by the wind.
Julie Simeroth, Simeroth’s wife, said the family had docked the boat to work on the engine when they heard the two teenagers yelling for help.
Summer Simeroth used a floatation device to begin swimming to the two.
Meanwhile, the father and son grabbed life vests for themselves as well as the two children and began swimming out.
Julie Simeroth called 911.
The three rescuers were able to reach the children and get life vests on them before rescue crews arrived from El Reno Fire.
The two teens were checked by emergency personnel and cleared.
The visit to the lake was only the second for the Simeroth family. The boat they were working on belongs to Jason’s father.
“We were where we were supposed to be,” Jason Simeroth said in a phone interview Friday.
Simeroth gave much of the credit to his children, who did not hesitate to jump in to help.
“I am very proud of my kids for the way they jumped in,” he said.
Initially, Simeroth said he wasn’t sure if the teens were in real trouble or were just having fun. Either way, he said, there was no choice but to check on them.
As it turns out, they were in trouble.
At least one of the teens could not swim.
“By the time we got to them, they were exhausted. They were in a place they shouldn’t have been without life jackets. It was a pretty dangerous situation for them. I’m just grateful we were able to help,” the superintendent said.
His wife said she felt God had a hand in the rescue.
“This was a real God’s wink,” Julie Simeroth said.
According to the El Reno Fire Department, the call for assistance came in at about 3:45 p.m.
“Both Station 1 and 2 responded, and we hooked up both our rescue boat and took our dive gear due to the nature of the call.
“When we arrived there were four people roughly 100 yards out. They began swimming toward us, we dropped the step system on the boat and Jake (fireman Jacob Reading) pulled the two victims on the boat,” said Capt. Greg Graves.
Graves said the two teenagers — a 13-year-old girl and a boy, 15, were at the lake with their 17-year old sibling when they floated out past the designated swim area on two “cheap rafts” and came under duress when they lost their flotation devices.
The female teen told Jason Simeroth she did not know how to swim. Julie Simeroth posted on her social media account that her husband told the teenager to “kick.”
Graves said the situation was minutes away from switching from rescue to a recovery mode.
El Reno police also responded to the 911 call as well as Pafford emergency medical technicians.
“If these people (Simeroths) were not there, the kids would have drowned. They were noses and mouths out of the water only. The people that saved them deserve all the credit in the world. They saved the kids lives,” said Graves.
Graves said anyone using Lake El Reno, either at the swimming area or on the open water, should always wear a life vest – no matter if they can swim or not.
“If you are going to be in the water, you need to wear your life vest. We were minutes away from having two drowning victims. This was not a small matter by any means,” said Graves.