HUDSON — One minute it was a typical, relaxing day on the beach. And then the screaming started.
"Everything 180'd real quick," said Oakdale, Minn., resident Cole Ulrich, who was among those spending June 6 on the beach.
The commotion unfolded after a teenager's body was spotted floating in the St. Croix River. He was revived, but the St. Croix River claimed the teenager he was originally trying to save. Authorities later found the body of 19-year-old Jeffery Arkis Taylor in the river about an hour after he was seen struggling in the water while attempting to swim from the dike to a nearby island.
The incident could have been even more tragic if not for two people who rushed to the scene after seeing 18-year-old Ryan L. Knudsen's body being dragged ashore.
West St. Paul resident Taya Mulcahy and Ulrich performed CPR on Knudsen before emergency crews arrived.
Mulcahy, who works as a care professional at a Twin Cities group home, was at the beach walking her dog with a friend when she saw people dragging Knudsen from the water. She dropped her dog's leash and rushed to Knudsen's side.
Ulrich, a 20-year-old restaurant manager, did the same after witnessing the chaos.
Both people said they quickly noticed others surrounding Knudsen were panicking but weren't doing much to help — some were slapping him in the face while others were recording the incident on their phones — so they went into action.
"I wasn't expecting that I was going to be the person who was going to do CPR on him," said Mulcahy, a 2011 Woodbury High School graduate. "Everyone was in panic mode and nobody was doing anything."
She did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while Ulrich did chest compressions.
"I just did what I remembered from high school," he said.
The life-saving episode represented the first time either person performed CPR in a live setting. While Ulrich's reaction stemmed from instruction he received at Stillwater High School, Mulcahy said she fell back on training she received as a health care professional.
Before long, Knudsen's eyes opened and he began coughing up water, Mulcahy said.
"I was just in complete shock," she said of the experience. "I didn't know if he was going to come to or not."
Ulrich said his martial arts training likely helped him keep calm in the stressful situation.
"I was able to do what I had to do," he said.
While it was rewarding to help save a life, Mulcahy said it was difficult to learn another teen died in the incident. She said she struggled to sleep the following night while replaying the chain of events in her head.
"I didn't know there was a second person that was still out in the water," she said, adding that she'd been in Hudson before during a previous drowning, though she didn't assist in that incident.
Still, Mulcahy said she was "so glad" to hear news reports that Knudsen was recovering at Hudson Hospital.