19-year-old waitress shatters her back after leaping off pier to save drowning boy when no one else will


Heroism can come in all kinds of shapes and forms.

We often associate heroic behavior with the military, the police and firefighters — but not every hero looks like that.

Nineteen-year-old Hanna Pignato said she was at work on the rooftop deck of Joe’s Crab Shack in Daytona Beach on Saturday when she saw a group of people in a panic.

When she listened more carefully, Hanna heard a woman screaming bloody murder from the beach below, and the sound of people crying out in chaos.

Hanna Pignato / Facebook

It soon turned out that the screaming woman was a frantic mother whose young son was caught in a strong rip tide.

“I saw the mom screaming and crying. Just hearing her wail terrified me. Then I saw the little boy … his head just kept going down,” Hanna Pignato told Daytona Beach News-Journal.

As Hanna looked down from the restaurant’s pier, she realized no one was actually trying to save the boy.

Luckily, Hanna is a skilled swimmer and surfer, which came in handy this time. Without hesitation, the nineteen-year-old waitress threw off her shoes and leaped off the pier.

Daytona Beach Florida Pier (Source)

When she dove in, however, Pignato hit a sandbar and the bones in her back and right foot instantly shattered, according to WESH.

Despite a terrible pain and discomfort, this awe-inspiring young woman continued swimming toward the desperate boy.

“I didn’t want the baby to die. He wasn’t a baby, he was 7 years old, 8 years old, but still I mean, that’s a human life — you just can’t look at that and walk away”, Hanna said.

Hanna Pignato / Facebook

The next thing she knew, a bystander was tending to her back on shore and trying to calm her down

Bystanders and a lifeguard rescued the boy while another person rescued Hanna.

The waitress said Monday from her hospital bed that she doesn’t regret what she did but she does realize that her injuries could have been much worse.

The fall from the pier broke her right foot in three places, said Hanna’s mother, Heather Pignato.

Twitter / Claire Metz

“She had surgery on her foot this morning,” she told Palm Beach Post. “I’m just glad she won’t need surgery on her back.”

Hanna doesn’t have health insurance and will be on bed rest for two months.

Her loved ones have set up a GoFundMe page to assist with her medical bills while she’s recovering.

Although she was badly injured, Heather Pignato said she’s proud of her daugther, because her intentions were good.

“She kept saying ‘I’m sorry, don’t be mad at me’ and I said ‘Hanna, you tried to save someone,’” Heather Pignato said.

For me, a hero is somebody who is selfless and just tries to give back as much as possible and help people.

A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares – just like Hanna! 


God bless this wonderful young lady. Let’s share this article on Facebook to pray tribute to Hanna and to wish her a quick recovery. 

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