MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 20-year-old woman is alive Wednesday night after a dramatic rescue at a popular Minneapolis beach.

The woman and a 17-year-old girl were trying to swim to a floating dock on Lake Harriet just before 5 p.m. Both went underwater, and the teenager made it safely back to shore — but the woman never resurfaced.

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“For the first couple of minutes it was scary stuff,” Zachary Beckman said.

Beckman was taking a nap on the lake’s North Beach when he heard people shouting. He quickly learned that a young woman had gone underwater about 50 feet from shore.

“He keeps shouting and people are waving their arms. Suddenly I’m like, ‘Oh my God, somebody’s actually drowning out there,'” Beckman said.

With a lifeguard background, Beckman knew enough to get people together to form a line and begin walking towards the dock.

“I heard someone shout, ‘She’s right down here but I can’t lift her up,’ so I jumped over from the dock and swam down to where she was,” he said.

Rescuer Colleen McNamara says the line of people was a successful tactic.

“We finally felt her. We pulled her up, together, all five of us, and brought her to the beach. She was unresponsive,” McNamara said.

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The woman was not breathing and she was without a pulse. Witnesses think she was underwater for about seven minutes.

McNamara also happens to be a nurse and immediately began CPR.

“I think that’s actually the reason she’s still alive because she got her coughing that water up,” Beckman said. “If no one knew how to do CPR, I think she’d be dead for sure.”

By the time the ambulance arrived, the woman had a pulse — all thanks to complete strangers.

“We were all, when we stopped doing chest compressions, we were crying and didn’t even realize it because it was so scary,” McNamara said. “But what a great group of people.”

The woman was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center, where she is in serious-but-stable condition Wednesday night.

There was no lifeguard on duty Wednesday, so the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office recommends people pay attention to the lifeguard status at their local beach. They also suggest wearing a life jacket if you are a weak swimmer.

McNamara says three nurses and a doctor happened to be at the beach at the time — and all played a role in the rescue.

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

John Lauritsen