Hero men who saved girl in wheelchair from drowning in the ocean 'didn't think twice'

Randolph Donovan (L) and Kashief Hamilton (R) of St. Thomas jumped into the ocean to save a drowning girl in a wheelchair. (Photo: Facebook/Kashief Hamilton)

Two St. Thomas men who dove into the ocean to save a disabled cruise passenger from drowning “didn’t think twice” about their heroic actions.

Aug.12 Facebook footage from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands caught the tail end of a chaotic rescue at the West Indian Company Dock. A teenage Carnival cruise passenger in a wheelchair had rolled off the dock when her brother stopped to take photos, forgetting to lock the brakes.

Kashief Hamilton and Randolph Donovan, friends and pier performers contracted by the Department of Tourism, jumped into the ice-cold ocean to save her.

Donovan, 34, a stilt dancer, first heard a group of people screaming at the edge of the dock. “I ran over and made eye contact with a girl in the water,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Her eyes were open and no sound was coming out of her mouth.”

Saying that he ‘didn’t think twice,’ Donovan dove into the water and swam over to the girl, whose chair was kept afloat by seat cushioning, and pulled her free.

Donovan tread water with one hand while holding the girl above water with his other arm, and repeated the word “Relax.” However, the men believe the girl either did not speak English or was non-verbal.

Hamilton, who was DJ’ing on the dock, also made his way to the edge and saw the pair struggling. “I yelled for Randolph to swim to me, but he was too tired,” Hamilton, 33, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. So, Hamilton also jumped in, fully clothed, and embraced the fatigued pair.

Someone on the dock threw down a roped life preserver and Hamilton tied it around Donovan and the girl. “I don’t know how I got it done,” Hamilton tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that the ordeal lasted about 12 minutes.

Donovan says he “hugged” his body around the girl while foisting her up on the dock, “as if I were rock climbing.” He wrote on Facebook that day, “Thank God we all are safe and sound.”


Donovan says he is haunted by the teen’s facial expression during the incident, and he hopes to meet her again to replace the scary memory. Both men have made contact with the girl’s family over Facebook, who are thankful for their bravery.

According to People, U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism commissioner Joseph Boschulte acknowledged the men on Facebook, writing, “I want to thank and acknowledge two members of our Visitor Experience team at the Department of Tourism — Kashief Hamilton and Randolph Donovan, Jr. — who went above the call of duty yesterday to save a disabled Carnival Fascination passenger from drowning at The West Indian Company (WICO) dock.”

Boschulte also presented the men with a pre-paid Carnival cruise, plus airfare, to the destination of their choice. They were given extra vacation days to recuperate. "The Virgin Islands is better because of you two gentlemen," Boschulte said during the ceremony.

A spokesperson for Carnival tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “...Our most sincere thanks and appreciation to these individuals for their heroic efforts in assisting this guest.”

In hindsight, both men realize their lives were at risk. “The outcome could have been worse,” Donovan tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s more important that this girl can live the rest of her life.”

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