By Cleve Bryan


SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. (CBS) — An off-duty New Jersey State Police trooper is being hailed a hero after he saved a man from drowning at the Jersey Shore. Detective Sgt. George Wren sprung into action while on vacation to save the man who was drowning at a beach in Sea Isle City.

As a professional detective, Wren investigates gangs and drug activity, protecting the innocent from some of south New Jersey’s vilest criminals.

But three weeks ago while vacationing with his family in Sea Isle City, it was his knowledge of the ocean that saved the life.

“I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time,” Wren said. “All of a sudden I heard a voice from behind me — a woman’s frantic voice say, ‘save him.’ And I turn toward the water and sure enough, I did see a gentleman who was about 75 yards out to sea.”

The man appeared to be in his sixties and was caught in a rip current.

“I could tell that he was definitely in trouble, but I was confident that I could get him back in,” Wren said.

From his training, Wren knew would-be rescuers can easily become victims so he grabbed a nearby surfboard to use as a flotation device and rushed out into the waves.

“I ventured out there and when I came upon this guy, I could tell that he was really, really tired,” Wren said. “I helped him mount the surfboard and I told him, ‘Look I’m a New Jersey State Trooper, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.’”

Fighting the current, Wren paddled the victim back to shore.

He urged the pale and disoriented man to get medical treatment, but he refused.

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Ironically the incident happened an hour after Wren had just explained the dangers of rip currents to his own sons.

“You can get into trouble real fast,’ he said.

Wren never thought the rescue would gather much attention, but a few days ago the victim’s wife called state police to thank him and make sure they know what he did.

Now he’s being hailed a hero.

“It’s a flattering experience,” Wren said. “It’s an awesome thing to be a part of with such a great, happy ending.”

It was later discovered the swimmer had suffered a heart attack.

He was treated at a nearby hospital and is now at home recovering.