Jumping In to Save a Life

Some banks have lollipops. Some have stickers. Bank OZK has a lifesaver.

Summer Nelson Pitts, Loan Operations Specialist II at OZK Bank’s Operations Center in Ozark, Ark., likes to escape to a nearby park along the Arkansas River to exercise and enjoy its serenity during her lunch break.

On July 30, she diverted from her routine to go to the river bank to observe the effects of historical flooding that hit the state earlier that year. After a quick assessment, she was headed to her usual walking path when a ruckus broke the silence.

“I heard some noise, but I couldn’t really tell what it was,” Summer said. “I thought maybe it was some birds, but as I got closer, I realized it was people that were screaming for help.”

She looked along the shoreline, but didn’t see anybody.

“I picked up my speed, started jogging, but I wasn’t sure where they were.”

As she got closer to the sound, she realized the swollen river had eroded the bank, leaving a four-foot drop off between land and the water. When she made it to the edge, she saw a boy out in the water going under and a frantic woman a few feet from the edge struggling to make it to him. Neither of them could swim and he was drowning.  

“His head was going completely under. I was thinking, ‘what am I going to do? Is there anything I can throw in?’ And there was nothing,” Summer said. “Mom was frantic. She had jumped in to try to help him, but couldn’t. She was barely keeping herself above water and she gave me a look that said ‘help.’

“I’d obviously heard them yelling for help, so I know he had been in there for a little while. The only option was going in after him. So I threw my purse down and jumped. I got the kid, and while I was getting him to the shore, she made it safely back, too.”

“The only option was going in after him,” Summer said. “So I threw my purse down and jumped.”

Once back on the river’s edge, the boy coughed up a lot of water. She offered to call 9-1-1 or drive the family to a nearby medical facility, but the woman was able to reach someone who brought them to the hospital.

Summer skipped her normal park visit for a few days, but when she returned, the boy and his mom were waiting in the park to thank her.

“Everything happened on a Tuesday, and I didn’t go back until that Friday,” she said. “I told them I walk there a lot during my lunch break and they drove back to thank me again, tell me he went to the hospital, everything was good, and he’s doing well.”

As if pulling a drowning child from a river didn’t cement her status as a superhero, Summer went back to work after she saved the boy’s life.

“I live about 30 miles away and was totally drenched. But I went home, showered, and changed. I ended up coming back to work,” she said. “We had started a new process and I didn’t want to get behind.”

Bank OZK Chairman and CEO George Gleason said he was amazed to hear about Summer’s lifesaving actions.

“We urge our employees to do great things in their communities,” Gleason said. “Jumping in the Arkansas River to save a child from drowning is truly a heroic action. We’re proud of Summer, and glad she’s part of our team.”