DJ Kashief Hamilton says he was playing music on a cruise ship dock at St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands when he heard a loud scream. The DJ stopped the party.
He says he saw people running, including friend Randolph Donovan, with whom he works as an entertainer for visitors to the island.
The 34-year-old Donovan jumped about 10 feet down off the dock into the ocean. A young woman in a wheelchair was sinking.
“I got her out of her wheelchair,” Donovan told CNN. Someone on the dock threw down a life preserver, he said.
Then Hamilton, 33, says he jumped in to help his friend, who was holding up the young woman, kicking furiously to keep the two of them afloat. “I can’t go no more,” Donovan told Hamilton.
Hamilton said the water was about 35 or 40 feet deep where they jumped in, making it more than deep enough for the woman weighted down by her wheelchair to sink.
Together with onlookers atop the dock, Hamilton and Donovan pulled the young woman back up to safety.
They never got her name, but they said one of her family members gave them a big hug.
“I’m glad the outcome was something positive,” Hamilton said. “We would have lost someone who is both a family member and a passenger.”
They easily could have lost their own lives, too, if a gust of wind had buffeted the waves, moving the massive Carnival Fascination cruise ship parked at the dock. If the ship had shifted a few yards, the three could have been crushed against the dock, Hamilton said.
A spokeswoman for Carnival Cruise Line declined to identify the passenger who was rescued, but told CNN, “The guest was seen by our medical team and did not sustain injuries. A complimentary replacement wheelchair has been provided for the duration of the cruise.”
Strangers now call them heroes
Hamilton and Donovan said the governor and a legislator applauded their rescue efforts.
The two men said US Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan, Jr. called them and told them, “On behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands, I want to say thank you.”
In a Facebook post, Sen. Kurt A. Vialet, who represents the area in the legislature, lauded the young men, writing, “Everyday heroes with unassuming personalities live among us!” Vialet also said he gave a tribute to their bravery on the Senate floor.
And even walking down the street, Hamilton and Donovan said people recognize them and say they’re “local heroes.”
They say they will always remember the woman they saved.
“I can’t stop thinking about her face, her expression,” Donovan said. “Her eyes were wide open, in shock. It’s something we’ve lived with every day since the incident.”
CNN’s Alexandra King contributed to this story.