A Tennessee woman died after a rescue attempt went wrong. Karen Graham, mother of two, formed a “human chain” to rescue two beach-goers swept into the ocean in Alabama.
“Someone started hollering for help, and Karen took off running to help,” Graham’s mother Laura Carrigan told NBC affiliate WPMI.
Graham had gone to Fort Morgan on a beach trip with friends. She learned that two nearby swimmers needed help. Graham and 20 others held hands and formed a “human chain.” They entered the water to offer their assistance, but the rescue party soon needed help themselves. The chain collapsed in the water.
“[Graham] was the first one in, and she was the furthest in the surf, so she got tossed around more than anybody else,” Carrigan told CBS affiliate WKRG. “She just didn’t make it.”
After the ‘human chain’ collapsed, Graham was airlifted to the hospital.
The Coast Guard reportedly said that it sent a response boat to the scene from Dauphin Island. But Fort Morgan Fire Rescue made all the rescues. First responders airlifted Graham to a local hospital, but she died of a heart attack caused by swallowing too much salt water.
“I’m hurt, of course, that she’s gone. But I know she worked really hard to save those girls’ lives,” Carrigan told WPMI. Carrigan described her daughter as an “energetic” problem-solver, who would help anyone. Carrigan said her daughter loved life.
Fort Morgan Fire Chief Michael Ludvigsen praised Graham and the others, but he discouraged people from trying similar rescue attempts.
“Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when human chains have been successful. It’s extremely dangerous,” he told WPMI. “You’re putting so many more people in danger.”
A GoFundMe page arranged for Graham’s family has so far raised more than $5,000.
“Karen is a HERO!! She gave her life to save another! She is also an organ donor and will be saving many more lives!” the page read. “I bet she is up in heaven dancing, like she loved to do!”