Manatee County lifeguard delivers baby on side of highway

BRADENTON -- A beach lifeguard is being praised for his life-saving abilities after he pulled over to help deliver a baby on the side of a highway.

Alex Gardnier lives in Stuart and works as a lifeguard in Manatee County part-time on the weekends. After he finished his shift on Aug. 12, he was driving home along Highway 710 east of Okeechobee when he saw a man waving on the side of the road.

The man, Eric Phillips, is a pastor from Okeechobee. He and his wife, Mandy, were expecting their sixth child and were on their way to the hospital so she could give birth.

However, they never made it to their destination.

"We went from, 'We are going to make it,' to my wife saying, 'We’re not going to make it,'"Phillips said.

Phillips said he quickly pulled over on the side of the road and he and wife said a prayer. Shortly after their baby boy, Isaiah, was born in the front seat of their mini-van.

"Your body kind of knows what to do," Mandy Phillips said. "To have a baby and baby number six, I kind of knew what to expect. I just didn’t know what to do when baby was out."

Phillips got out of the car and waved for help. That's when Gardnier drove up and stopped to help them.

"It was an answer to prayer," said Mandy. "God just sent him to us."

Gardnier said he's used to saving lives in the water, but delivering a baby is something he'd never done before. But, being a lifeguard and state-certified emergency medical technician, it was something he had been trained to do, so he put his training into action.

"I came in with my first aid kit and what not and helped little Isaiah start breathing on his own," Gardnier said.

"He helped get umbilical cord from around Isaiah and began to pat him and make sure he was breathing," Eric Phillips said.

Twenty minutes later, the paramedics arrived. Both baby and mom were taken to the hospital and healthy.

“Pretty amazing, you can’t prepare yourself for something like that,” said Gardnier.It's an act that both Gardnier and the Phillipses said they'll never forget.

The community is recognizing Gardnier as well. On Tuesday, Mindy and Eric Phillips, along with their six children, drove from their home in Okeechobee to Manatee County, to meet up with Gardnier once again. They were there as Manatee County Commissioners awarded Gardiner with a Heroism Act.

The family also got the chance to thank Gardnier again in person.