Texas family wants to give back to Merced man who saved 10-year-old from drowning

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A family out of Texas is hoping to repay a North Valley man who they say helped save their 10-year-old child after she was caught in a rip current.

Ten-year-old Hayley Whiting and her family splashed along the shore as they enjoyed the last day of their vacation in Monterey in August.

She was playing in the waves when her mom asked her to come closer to shore. But the girl got caught in a riptide and was quickly being pulled deeper out to sea.

Her mother, Samantha, tried swimming out to save her daughter.

"I was thinking this is not happening. There's no way I'm being pulled out. I was terrified," Whitling said.

Nearby, Merced resident Kevin Cozzi and his fiancé heard the screaming.

He quickly jumped into action.

"I've been swimming since I was three years old competitively, so I felt like I could get to them. I ran out there and as soon as I got to the mom, I knew she was struggling," Cozzi said.



Cozzi was able to reach young Haylee and brought her closer to shore until a lifeguard jumped in.

Months went by, and Samantha only knew Cozzi's first name. However, she never stopped looking for the heroic bystander.

Earlier this week, she posted about the rescue in a Facebook group called Merced Neighborhood Watch, and within hours they reconnected.

Samantha is now is working to raise money to give Cozzi and his fiancé their dream wedding since they had to cancel theirs because of COVID-19.

Samantha and Haylee are grateful for Cozzi and plan to thank him again in person as they attend his wedding next fall.

Samantha's GoFundMe account to help Kevin Cozzi can be found by clicking here.
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