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Cornelius News

Almost lost at sea: Cornelius couple relives rescue with girl they saved

Rescuers Michele and Jim Wirth live in Magnolia Estates

July 29. Remember the story of an American couple who never made it back from a scuba diving trip in Australia? Their boat returned to port without them and the couple was never found. The tragedy was made into a 2003 movie called “Open Water.”

Melissa Vargas was much more fortunate, thanks to a Cornelius couple, avid boaters Michelle and Jim Wirth. While they have lived in Magnolia Estates some 25 years, the Wirths love to take their 25-foot center console boat in the Atlantic Ocean.

The dive boat

They were “chillin and fishin” off Jupiter, Fla. when they spotted Melissa, 22 at the time, waving a yellow mask—pretty much in the middle of nowhere, no one around except barracudas.

Melissa was in shock, lost, shivering and miles from her dive boat when the Wirths scooped her out of the ocean.

Melissa’s first words: “I thought I was going to die out there!”

That was exactly two years ago. Flash forward to late July, and Melissa contacted the Wirths on the two-year anniversary of the rescue. “Oh my Gosh hello!!! Thank you SO much for existing and saving my life!!!” Melissa said in a text.

It was the first they’d heard from Melissa, and a happy shock that brought back the exhilaration of saving a life. They exchanged text messages, with everyone euphoric, including Melissa’s parents.

Melissa and her grateful parents

Michelle said it was “such an unbelievable feeling” to hear from Melissa two years later.

“I got chills!” she said.

“We were both so filled with love from the heart-warming message we received from her, thanking us for our existence and saving her! She said her parents called us angels and would love to hug all of us.”