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Saving Haley Chour: Four awarded hero award by Salisbury Civitan Club

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The only thing Haley Chour can remember before nearly drowning in the torrential waters in Mexico was screaming for help, trying to save her shoe and waking up in an ambulance. What she didn’t know was that others on the First Presbyterian Church of Salisbury’s mission trip would pull her lifeless body from the choppy waters.

Teens With a Mission were in San Antonio Del Mar in July to build homes for two families and during a fun day the group made up of 29 teenagers and nine adults spent time at a beach. The adults had reminded and instructed them all about the much stronger Pacific Ocean waters than they would’ve been used to, how to get out of a rip tide and signal for help.

The waves became harder to endure and some began to head for shore.

Hayley Chour, a student at West Rowan High, dove under a wave and was caught up on the undertow, causing the water to take her further out into the sea.

“I was panicking,” Chour said describing the moment she went under.

The water, which was about waist-high to most of the others, was rising to Chour’s shoulders, who stands at about 5 feet tall.

The harrowing story of how she was saved by three other teens and a mission trip adviser was recounted this week to a room full of Salisbury Civitan Club members. The room grew silent as fellow Civitan member Maggie Blackwell read the account. The four were nominated by mission trip advisors Kyna and John Grubb for the Civitans’ Hero Award.

Roarke Burton, a Salisbury High swimmer, got to Chour first, despite being called in by leaders who noticed others having a hard time staying above water. Some of the guys had already used the strong waves to “push” a few weaker swimmers to shore.

Burton said he initially wondered if he’d have to try to get Chour to shore by himself, but then Keegan Dillon, an Eagle Scout, who was a little further out, reached the pair soon after.

Both Burton and Dillon, who are trained in life saving, chased after Chour. The two teens swam and held Chour as they fought against the ocean to bring her to shore.

“It felt like a lot longer,” Burton said, but less than 10 minutes had passed until others jumped into the water.

Mission trip adviser, Allen Cook, first joined them in the water and all three shifted an unconscious Chour between them. Burton at one point used himself as a backboard, balancing Chour as the others stopped to alternate breaths and compressions and then swam to shore.

On the beach, Blaine Shellhorn had been talking with his mother, Amy, when they noticed what was happening in the beach. Amy had been video recording the day’s activities when she saw someone signaling for help and zoomed in, she said.

Blaine, who had already swam and was rested, ran into the ocean. Shellhorn, also an Eagle Scout, a trained EMT and Ellis Cross Country volunteer firefighter, told his mom he had to go help. Shellhorn and Dillon alternated administering CPR to Chour until they reached the beach.

“She stopped breathing,” Dillon said.

When the group got to waist-deep water, chaperone John Grubb helped bring them to shore just as the beach patrol arrived.

Amy Shellhorn, a registered nurse, and Sherry Bryan, a physicians’ assistant, and the beach emergency response team worked to stabilize Chour’s breathing while on the beach. While Chour was being stabilized for transport, the rest of the group circled around to pray for their friend.

“All of us were reminded that God masterfully orchestrated this day where friends stepped in to serve, using the gifts God had given them, to save a friend. I reminded Keegan, Roarke, Allen and Blaine that God appointment them to be there, with their unique skills and experiences. No other young person would have had the strength or the knowledge to save Haley. Not one of them could have saved her alone,” John Grubb said in his nomination letter.

Salisbury High Principal Luke Brown did more than just excuse the three teens from school, he attended the award ceremony. Brown said he was so proud of his students, whom he called the picture of courage.

The Hero Award was established by Ernest Curtis, a longtime Salisbury Civitan Club member, who was inspired by the many heroic deeds of rescue workers and private citizens following the horrific events of September 11, 2001.

The award is intended to recognize ordinary people for extraordinary actions in service to others.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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