PORTLAND, Maine — An off-duty Coast Guardsman from Portland was hailed as a hero Monday for saving the life of a woman struggling in the waters off Pensacola Beach, Fla.

Lt. Cmdr. Gabriel Somma, a Deering High School graduate and helicopter pilot instructor at Whiting Field, Fla., Naval Air Station, saw a woman struggling against the current about 50 yards offshore Sunday, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard Monday.

Somma swam the distance to reach her, then brought her back to the beach. The woman, identified by the Coast Guard as Margaret Murphy, declined medical assistance.

“A combination of my Coast Guard and water survival training really helped me today,” said Somma in a statement released by the Coast Guard. “As I was approaching her in the water, I thought about my water survival training and my instinct took over, and I was able to save that woman’s life. It gave me a new respect for our rescue swimmers who do this every day.”

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.