Homestead grad discusses swimming accident

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – The Griffith family said Isaac Griffith’s doctors are pleased with the teenager’s recovery so far, but he still has a long way to go.  Isaac Griffith was critically injured in March while swimming at Siesta Beach in Florida during spring break.

On Saturday, Isaac spoke publicly about the incident for the first time.  NewsChannel 15 was the only Fort Wayne-based station at Indiana University’s Memorial Stadium, where Griffith plays college football, to listen firsthand to Griffith’s progress.

According to a report from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department, Griffith, 19, and three friends had been drinking alcohol before they decided to go swimming early in the evening.  While the four were in the water, the current started to take them away from shore.

Griffith said Saturday that alcohol had no factor in what happened to him.

“Doctors told me, a rip tide takes down the strongest of people every day, Shannon Griffith, Isaac’s father, said.  “Just be thankful your boy is going to be able to walk out of here.”

Shannon and Kim Griffith joined their son at Saturday’s press conference, along with Isaac’s two teammates, Nick Stoner and Ty Smith, who were not only swimming with Isaac at the time of his accident, but were also credited for saving his life.

All three IU players said the water they were in was only waist deep, and calm at first.  Then, without warning, the waves began to grow.

“I first realized I was in trouble when I was being thrust out further than I wanted to,” Issac said.  According to police, Griffith was pushed out about 15 yards past the buoys.  “I kind of panicked.  In my mind, I knew it was time to go back in, and when I tried to go back to shore I got swept out further.”

One of the friends, Mitch McCune, 19, of Ellettsville was able to grab Griffith.

Meanwhile, Stoner and Smith had made it back to shore, and were looking for their other two friends.

“We went back to shore, and realized we didn’t know where they were,” Stoner said.   “The waves were so choppy, you couldn’t see heads necessarily.”

Stoner ran up on a nearby lifeguard tower to get a better view.  Once he spotted Griffith and McCune, he pointed them out to Smith, who ran back in after them.

Smith picked Griffith up out of McCune’s arms, and took him the rest of the way back to shore.  “I said Nick, go get an ambulance, and run,” Smith said.

Smith and McCune performed CPR on Griffith until medics arrived.  “I gave him mouth-to-mouth,” Smith said.  The two men had learned about CPR, and McCune had received CPR training in classes at IU.

McCune performed chest compressions.

Griffith was rushed to the nearby Sarasota Memorial Hospital.  He said he remembered the whole experience, up until he blacked out and was taken out of the water.  At the hospital, Griffith was put in a medically induced coma, to help his lungs heal.

Griffith spent nearly a week in the hospital, with his parents by his side.

On Saturday, Griffith said he still has some coughing associated with his pneumonia he had.  “My lungs are fine,” he said.  “Everything is normal.  I can take deep breaths.  I don’t have a problem with that.”

An emotional Griffith thanked his close friends for being able to act calm and quickly.

“These guys are brothers to me,” a teary-eyed Griffith said.  “I love them to death.”

Griffith’s parents expressed the same thankfulness.

“It’s hard to hear what these kids have gone through,” Shannon Griffith, while fighting back tears of his own, said.  “The belief we have in a higher power, has been what we’ve gone by, our faith in that.”

Isaac Griffith said he has resumed some light jogging and weight training.  As for his football career, he planned to be back to 100 percent sometime this summer, in time to be ready for IU’s fall football camp.

Shannon Griffith said the teenagers were not facing any repercussions for possibly drinking while under age.

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