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Horrifying details of Dan Roundfield’s drowning come to light

Aug 19, 2013, 1:22 PM EDT

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Former Hawks All-Star Dan Roundfield drowned while attempting to save his wife in Aruba last year.

It was a tragic event, but details had been scarce. Roundfield obviously acted heroically, but a fuller picture would help people understand and remember what Roundfield did.

His widow, Bernie Roundfield, realized that and shared her story with Harvey Araton of The New York Times as a way of honoring Dan:

One possible explanation for what happened, Larmonie said, was that Bernie’s raft had moved too close to the invisible and sometimes shifting boundary while she relaxed.

Unable to reverse direction after her husband called to her, she cried out, “Danny, help me.”

He began to go after her. She saw him walking through chest-high water — not swimming — toward her. As the water heaved around her, she lost sight of him.

Nicole Brandt, a 43-year-old massage therapist, was visiting the island and was on an eight-person day tour. An avid swimmer, she had been in the water, wearing fins and a snorkeling mask. She heard someone calling out in distress.

“I saw a blue raft out there, and I thought, that’s got to be her,” Brandt said by telephone from her home in Austin, Tex. “There was no time to get help, no time to think. I pulled off the mask. I just started swimming as fast as I could. She was just about at the edge of being pulled out to sea.”

Brandt grabbed hold of the raft and began to back-kick in the direction of the beach. Even for someone in excellent physical condition, who swims miles each week, it was difficult and exhausting. The water felt rough even in the shallow area, where she could stand.

Bernie fell when she tried to get off the raft and walk the rest of the way in. Brandt wrapped an arm around her, and they crawled to the sand.

At this point, Bernie assumed Dan would be back on the beach. She thought he must have reversed course, gone for help and perhaps had sent Brandt out to get her. But he was nowhere in sight. While Bernie sat shivering, Brandt ran into a small restaurant to have the police called.

After a short while, the police called in a search team. It took 90 minutes for one of the divers — a teenage boy — to find Dan’s body, one leg pinned under rocks, miraculously held there from going out to sea.

Back in suburban Atlanta, Clyde Mitchell was watching ESPN when the news of his friend’s death broke that night. In disbelief, he called Bernie’s cellphone. She told him how Dan had died trying to save her. He could tell she was overwhelmed with grief, and perhaps guilt. She, in fact, had been treated for shock.

In the hours after the drowning, the coroner told Bernie that Dan’s death had to have happened quickly. There was no stress on his face. A bruise on his head suggested he had hit it on the rocks when engulfed by a wave.

I can’t even begin to comprehend what Bernie is feeling now, but I’m glad she told her story. Dan Roundfield deserves for everyone to understand what he did for his loved one. There’s a powerful lesson here.

  1. circuscivics - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    That was a heroic and admirable act for him trying to save a loved one. It seems kind of easy for people to sit back and say they would have done the same thing if they had been in the late Mr. Roundfield’s shoes, but when you are actually in that moment, I am sure that it takes a kind of self-less courage that all possess.

    I am confused about one detail in this article, though. It says that it is quoting the story from Mr. Roundfield’s “late wife”, but then the author says, “I can’t even begin to comprehend what Bernie is feeling now…” So is Mrs Roundfield alive or dead?

  2. kb2408 - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    The true definition of heroic. Great piece of writing…

    • emosnar - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      Great piece of writing? The author wrote an intro and outro paragraph and quotes from another story throughout.

      Great piece of paraphrasing.

  3. supremekingz - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    Real Love

  4. papacrick - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    So she is alive? Very confusing article

    • shanelsweet - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      If you think she’s dead after reading this report, then you are truly too confused. Please immediately stop reading until you feel better.

  5. eagles512 - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    She is alive

  6. fnc111 - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    Sad story and heroic but terribly confusing. Professional writers must not get paid much these days.

    • genericcommenter - Aug 20, 2013 at 7:49 AM

      They don’t.

  7. fotydaze - Aug 20, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    H…E…R…O… RIP!

  8. zincbank - Aug 21, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    This is a very emotionally-touching story – but I admit that the section(s) that evoked some of my strongest emotions is when it becomes apparent that Aruban officials LIED to the U.S. media about the circumstances of the tragedy. In an oh-so-deft “Blame the Victim” move, the Arubans dishonestly portrayed Bernie Roundfield as some daredevil who recklessly disregarded clearly-posted warnings/restrictions, and swam outside of the “safe zone”. The article makes clear that Bernie did nothing of the sort. Nevertheless, the cover-up lie was planted, and the U.S. media propagated this gross mischaracterization.

    Aruba really pulled one over on us. For an entire year, U.S. citizens were lulled into a false sense-of-security about a “safe” beach that supposedly will not swallow you whole if you simply obey the rules. Score one for the tourism propagandists.

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