ROCKAWAYS, Queens - Eyewitness News spoke with two victims, sisters, who won't be going back to the beach anytime soon after they almost drowned while being pulled out to sea.
It was a dramatic, heroic rescue and these sisters are grateful to be alive.
"If I panic, I'm going to drown. I'm going to drown," said Jennifer Padilla, victim.
A beautiful day at Rockaway Beach Monday turned into a nightmare when Jennifer and Jessica went into the surf to wash off the sand.
It was 7:45 p.m. when suddenly, a powerful rip current knocked the sisters down and dragged them away from shore.
"There was no swimming. No nothing. It just kept taking us. It just kept taking us," said Jessica Rodriguez, victim.
Thankfully, Officer Billy Lauria, who used to work as a lifeguard, was on-duty there.
The 23-year-old hero cop stripped of his gear, ran into the menacing surf and pulled 25-year-old Padilla back to safety, back to her three children.
"You didn't just save my life. You saved my kids life," Padilla said.
"I'm down here for the summer to assist with beach detail," Officer Lauria said. "Good timing."
Younger sister, Rodriguez, 20, says another woman got to her first, grabbed her hand, and pulled her to shore.
"I looked up and was like 'thank you, thank you.' If not for her, I wouldn't be here," Rodriguez said.
The screams for help happened at Beach 94th Street, after the lifeguards went off duty.
Eyewitness News is told at least one Good Samaritan needed to be rescued as well when he tried to help, but ended up in trouble. Thankfully there were brave surfers to save him.
"I said, 'Everything will be alright. Hang onto our board. We got you," said Danny Kent, a surfer.
"After this, I'm going to stay away from the beach," Padilla said.
The sisters said they're not strong swimmers, but they knew enough not to panic. Now they also know just how powerful and frightening these rip currents really are.