Updated: May 4.
Rescuers extracted an unconscious teen-ager to safety by hoisting him into a helicopter from an isolated cove in South Laguna about 4 p.m. Saturday, April 29.
The incident drew the attention of onlookers and residents because three helicopters were dispatched to the scene by the fire authority and sheriff’s department, which ultimately airlifted out the unresponsive beach-goer.
The duplication of resources and the apparent lack of communication between the agencies involved during the incident is under review by Laguna’s police and fire departments. Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse said such a review in not uncommon when multiple agencies are involved.
He said he’s requested information from the agencies involved, a process that he expects will take some time. “For years, we’ve worked seamlessly with the OCFA,” LaTendresse said, referring to the Orange County Fire Authority. The entity added helicopters with hoist capability prior to the closure of the El Toro Marine base in 1999, said OFCA public affairs chief Dave Spencer.
A weekend lifeguard at Table Rock Beach was the first alerted to what looked like an unconscious person in an area known alternatively as Lover’s Cove and Secret Cove, said OC Lifeguard Chief Jason Young, whose force is responsible for supervising the sands south of Aliso Beach. The isolated cove can be reached on the sand from the south at low tide and from the north either by swimming from Table Rock Beach or trespassing across private property.
Because the patient “was not 100 percent aware of what was going on,” lifeguards could not swim the person out even though he was uninjured, said Young, who would not further identify the patient. The police log indicated the 17-year-old male was transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.
Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Capt. Larry Kurtz said multiple helicopters went to the scene due to a new policy requiring a sheriff’s helicopter accompany a fire authority aircraft on most remote rescues.
“We use the resources we need to do the job,” said sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Lane Lagaret, when asked why multiple helicopters were dispatched.
Summer-like crowds packed the beaches both days, but a shark attack at San Onofre Beach on Saturday and the subsequent closure of the ocean in San Clemente likely swelled Sunday’s throngs on Laguna beaches to the north. “We staffed up a little,” Young said. “It was packed no matter what.”