A 16-year-old Maine girl is being hailed as a hero for pulling off a major swim to save her dad and sister after their boat flipped in frigid waters. The Morning Sentinel reports Kiana French was fishing Sunday on Parlin Pond in Somerset with her father, Gary, and her 14-year-old sister, Cierrah, when their 12-foot aluminum boat started filling with water. Kiana tried to dump the water out using Cierrah's cowboy boot as their dad manned the motor, but it didn't work—and the boat suddenly overturned. "We were a little bit shocked that the boat filled up completely at first," Kiana tells WGME. "We didn't think we were going to sink." Kiana was able to get her life jacket on and get the life jackets for her father, who was in shock, and her sister, who's still recovering from a bout with cancer. That's when Kiana knew she was the one who'd have to swim to shore, which she couldn't even see, for help.
"I was sad to leave my sister and my dad behind, but I felt like it was the right thing to do," she tells the Sentinel. The high school senior told herself not to look back at her family and just to keep moving forward through the cold water; after what "seemed like forever," per the paper, she made it to shore. She'd struggled through 600 yards of choppy water, or the equivalent of six football fields. From the shoreline, Kiana managed to flag down a party boat, and that boat and another vessel rescued Cierrah and the girls' father. EMTs checked all three, who were relatively fine: Other than being cold, there were apparently no other injuries, other than a few scrapes on Kiana's feet and legs. As for Cierrah, she took away her own life lesson from the experience. "I think I learned that I really would not like to die," she says. Read more about Kiana's incredible feat here. (Read more uplifting news stories.)