Heroic Teen Recovering After Jumping Off a Pier Trying to Save Drowning Boy

Hanna Pignato has tears in her eyes while speaking to reporters from her hospital bed.
WESH News/YouTube

Hanna Pignato was working her regular shift at Joe's Crab Shack in Daytona Beach, Florida, over the weekend when something in the water caught her eye. It was a boy just off the Main Street Pier, struggling to stay above water as the tide grew stronger. Immediately, she knew she had to act -- and didn't think twice before taking off toward the pier.

  • Pignato immediately handed her apron and phone to a customer, ran downstairs, and headed for the drowning boy.

    Knowing she was a strong swimmer, the 19-year-old felt confident she could reach him in time. But as she ran, she says she was overcome by emotion as she heard the child's mother screaming for help

    "I could hear the fear in her [voice]," Pignato later told WESH 2 News. "And I'm thinking, that kid is gonna die because no one is in the water."

    The teen was not about to let that happen, and she jumped in the water to head out after him.

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  • But in her haste to come to the boy's aid, Pignato made a critical error that would land her in the hospital with broken bones in her back and foot.

    As WESH 2 News reports, she jumped from the pier at a shallow point and hit a sandbar masked by the rushing waves.

    "I should have walked down the pier a bit more, and done it so much better," she later told the outlet, voicing her regret over misjudging the water's depth. "Right when I hit the floor I was like, I'm done."

    As it turned out, the sandbar was just two or three feet beneath the water, leaving Pignato with injuries too painful to make it over to the boy. 

    "I couldn't go and help him at that point," she told Click Orlando. "I was so shocked that I just kept swimming and I stayed afloat."

    But luckily, by that point first responders were on their way, and other bystanders came to their aid.

  • Both Pignato and the boy were ultimately saved, giving a potentially tragic story the happy ending it deserves.

    And despite being stuck in a hospital and unable to walk as her injuries heal, Pignato would make the decision to jump in after the boy all over again if she could. 

    Because for the kindhearted teen, something about this story struck a chord in her. Especially when her thoughts turned to the boy's mother.

    "I love when families are with families," she told WESH  2 News through tears in her eyes. "Because I know what it's like not to have my family, and I didn't want her to go home without hers."

    Luckily, that mom didn't have to. The 8-year-old was taken to the hospital after the incident because he'd swallowed a lot of water, but by all accounts he is doing just fine.