By CourtesySeptember 14, 2016
MARQUETTE, Kan. - Many heard about a fatality drowning that occurred at the Kanopolis State Park beach the Saturday before Memorial Day 2016, but few are aware of the lifesaving heroics of one young lady who prevented another drowning that day.
Park visitor Amy Bruecks saved a 20-year-old man from drowning at a Corps swim beach after he went out too far and got into trouble.
Bruecks, of Yukon, Okla., made a special trip back to the lake Sept. 3, for a ceremony recognizing her courage. Bruecks received the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Certificate of Appreciation and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism Lifesaving Award.
Bruecks was out for a swim at the Corps' Venango Park beach at Kanopolis Lake the Saturday before Memorial Day. The swim beach was busy that holiday weekend with many enjoying the water or basking in the sun. Bruecks was returning from a quarter-mile swim when she saw people on shore yelling to a young man in a deep section of the designated swim area.
A former lifeguard, Bruecks immediately recognized that the young man was showing signs of drowning and her lifesaving training kicked in.
"When I swam over to him, I thought he was messing around, I thought well, I'm going to swim over to him and he would probably be just kidding around, but he wasn't," said Bruecks. "I gave him my fingertips and told him you're going to have to help me by kicking and kept telling him that today is not the day you're going to die, I just kept repeating that over and over until we reached his family."
She was able to rescue him and with the help of his family, pulled the 20-year-old man to shore. The family rushed him to a first aid station at Venango Park, and from there an ambulance took him to a local hospital where he was treated and released.
"I thought wow, I didn't know I was that strong of a swimmer," said Bruecks. "When I was certified as a lifeguard, in my head I always questioned my abilities because I had never been tested. After this, I thought okay I'm stronger than I think I am."
Bruecks spends many hours swimming as she is a triathlete who said that this incident really validated her skills.
Some might say it was luck that Bruecks was in the right place at the right time. However, she is convinced it was fate. At the age of 20, Bruecks suffered a leg amputation in a motorcycle accident 21 years ago to the day that she saved the young man. Her family meets at Kanopolis Lake on Memorial Day weekend to camp and celebrate her survival and recovery from that accident. Bruecks was pleased that the Corps and KDWPT felt it noteworthy enough to present the awards when she could return on Labor Day Weekend.
David Kolarik contributed to this article