-- When panic ensued on the shores of Rockaway Beach in New York on Monday, a nearby police officer jumped into action to save the day.
Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Padilla were caught by a strong rip current and swept away from the shore. They were struggling to stay afloat when NYPD Officer Billy Lauria said he heard their screams from the beach.
The screams for help happened at Beach 94th Street, after the lifeguards went off duty at 7:45 p.m.
According to local ABC station WABC, Lauria, 23, a former beach lifeguard, stripped off his belt and gun and jumped into the water to help. When Lauria realized there were two swimmers, he enlisted the help of four nearby surfers as well.
"It was all good timing," Lauria told WABC. "I'm down here for the summer assisting with the beach detail with the large crowds coming in this summer," he said.
One of the surfers who helped get the girls onto his board before they were safely out of the water continually reassured the Padillas they would make it.
"I said, 'Everything is going to be all right, hold onto the board, we got you, stay calm, everything is going to be fine," Danny Kent said.
As the good Samaritans worked to rescue the two women, a rescue helicopter hovered close above the water.
Jennifer Padilla said that she knew her only option was to try to stay calm while they awaited help. "If I panic, I'm going to drown. ... He didn't just save my life. He saved my kids' life," Padilla, a mother of three, said.
As for Lauria's heroic efforts, he gave the surfers who helped him a lot of credit. "I definitely appreciate it, made my job a lot easier," he said.