Two Hinesville residents whose paths had never crossed met about 60 miles away as one was fighting for life and the other stepped in to help.
Kimberly Brewton wanted some alone time after a May 14 campaign fundraiser for Sheriff Steve Sikes, and decided to go to St. Simons Island to enjoy the ocean.
The same afternoon, Liberty County Deputy Brian Barnes, who was off-duty, agreed after a little arm twisting to go with his wife, Carla, and their two children to St. Simons.
At the beach, Brewton and Barnes met after he noticed her out of the corner of his eye splashing water on herself. He was playing with his children. The beach was packed with people.
Barnes said he was not focused on Brewton until he realized she had gone under and had not come up for air.
“While playing with my kids, I kept noticing out of the corner of my eye she was floating there, but never came up for air. I kept telling myself subconsciously, ‘Surely this lady’s not drowning in front of me.’”
He then noticed a look of concern on a woman wading nearby. He later learned she was Jeannie Cobb.
Barnes and Cobb ran toward Brewton. Carla Barnes started yelling that Brewton was in trouble. Brian Barnes reached Brewton, pulled her up by her arms, and Cobb and Carla Barnes helped bring her to shore.
“Her eyes were open, and she was unresponsive,” Brian Barnes said.
He and an unidentified man began chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and were able to restore Brewton’s heartbeat and breathing.
Barnes said the compressions forced a lot of water from Brewton’s lungs. Eventually, Glynn County emergency medical personnel took over and took Brewton to a hospital, where she remained unconscious on life support for two days.
Brewton said all she remembers is splashing herself and dog paddling when she felt the ground shift under her feet, pulling her down. She tried to dog paddle herself up, but a wave dragged her under again.
She realized she was in trouble, and her last conscious thought was, “Help me, Jesus.”
Brewton said she recalls briefly seeing her deceased son, Ryan Brewton.
Several days later, she regained consciousness, found herself on life support and wearing a hospital bracelet, which simply stated, “Jane Doe-DOA.”
She couldn’t talk and said she thought, “Who is Jane Doe, and DOA, what is this all about? That really startled me!”
Brewton began writing responses to questions, alleviating doctors’ concerns that she had suffered brain damage.
Thursday, Barnes and Brewton met again, but at the Barneses’ home.
“Thank you very much,” Brewton said over and over as she hugged the deputy’s neck tightly.
A tear welling up, Barnes softly said, “You’re very welcome, I’m just glad you’re OK.”
They talked for about an hour. Barnes filled in Brewton’s blanks about what took place on the beach that sunny afternoon.