Paramedic recalls trying to save couple from beach tragedy

"Here's a family who went to the beach and didn't come home. For most people that's not even a remote possibility," paramedic Shaun Dean said

By Jill Harmacinski
The Eagle-Tribune

SEABROOK BEACH, N.H. — Shaun Dean was on his way home from doing errands early Sunday afternoon when he saw police cruisers and firetrucks flying up Route 286 towards his Seabrook Beach home.

Minutes later, Dean, 55, the chief paramedic at Lowell General Hospital, was among those trying to revive Michael and Laura Cote, a married Methuen couple, who'd been pulled from the angry ocean water and were unconscious.

Michael Cote, 49, and Laura Cote, 47, both perished after the 12:28 p.m. incident.

Four others stranded in the water that day were rescued.

On Sunday afternoon, Dean said he followed the emergency vehicles back to his neighborhood where they parked at a beach opening.

He parked his own car car and then immediately "went to see if I could help," he said.

"Everyone was yelling and screaming," said Dean of beachgoers.

He quickly found a "senior officer" on scene and told him he was a Lowell General Hospital paramedic. Meanwhile, a variety of other "professionals" were pulling people of the water after a suspected rip current overcame them, he explained.

The Cotes were both unconscious when pulled from the water. He, Seabrook and Hampton firefighters tried to revive them.

He said a "question nobody could answer" was how long they were in the water, which can be critical to revival.

"You feel bad for people," said Dean. "Here's a family who went to the beach and didn't come home. For most people that's not even a remote possibility."

The father of two, college-age daughters, Dean has had a home at Seabrook Beach for 27 years. He's worked in emergency medical services for 36 years — the last 32 as a paramedic.

He tries to walk the beach daily. He said he's seen the water rougher than it was on Sunday afternoon, noting rip currents can be difficult to detect.

A rip current is a rapid flow of water away from the beach.

The Coast Guard reported 3- to- 4-foot waves and 5- to- 10-knot winds on Sunday.

CodeRed alerts, as well as posts on the Seabrook Police Department Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, advised of the dangerous currents and to avoid swimming off Seabrook Beach following the incident.

There are no lifeguards at Seabrook Beach.

First responders, Dean explained, train vigorously for these kinds of situations and rescues. But no drill ever identically resembles real life.

"I can tell you situations like this don't happen often. You can train the skills. The thing you can't practice is adding the emotional piece to this," said Dean, noting the "adrenalin gets charged up."

Dean stressed he was among a group of first responders Sunday.

The New Hampshire State Police Marine Patrol, the United States Coast Guard, Seabrook police and fire departments, and the Hampton Fire Department all responded Sunday. Several good Samaritans also helped, according to state police.

The names of the surviving swimmers have not been released by state police.

Devout Catholics, the Cotes were loved and revered parishioners at St. Francis of the Assisi Church in Dracut. A Holy Hour in their memories was held at the church Monday night. Hundreds attended the service.

The couple regularly attended Mass but were also involved in parish prayer groups and a homeless ministry.

When questioned about the seeming senselessness of the deaths, Dean noted "unfortunately, in life, these things happen."

"You are looking for a rational answer in an abnormal situation and that's not easy to find," he said.

Copyright 2018 The Eagle-Tribune

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