Visitors, Lifeguards Act to Avert Beach Disasters

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Jack Sweiderk of Scottsdale saved a child from drowning on Treasure Island Beach on Saturday.
Jack Sweiderk of Scottsdale saved a child from drowning on Treasure Island Beach on Saturday.

Scottsdale visitors Dave Sweiderk and his son Jack, still in their traveling clothes, took along a football while checking out Treasure Island Beach shortly after their arrival in Laguna Beach on Saturday. As they were exchanging tosses beside pounding, six-foot swells, Sweiderk saw a woman chasing a toddler heading into the surf behind his son.

He called to Jack, who turned and tried to grab the boy even as he was swept out by the undertow. An oncoming wave submerged them both, said Sweiderk. In that moment, the 49-year-old father feared for both their lives.

When the 15-year-old teen surfaced with the child in his arms, he yelled, “I got him.” An onlooker, who identified herself as a nurse, took charge and instructed them to turn over the boy, who coughed up water and revived, Sweiderk said in an interview Wednesday. “It happened so fast. There was nobody else who could have saved that kid.”

The boy’s parents and arriving lifeguards congratulated Jack for averting a near-drowning. Guards later told Sweiderk that the guard on duty in the immediate area was responding to another call.

While neither Laguna Beach nor county guards could confirm the rescue, they made plenty of their own. “There were so many; it’s hard to pinpoint a specific one,” said marine safety department Captain Kai Bond.

Over the three-day weekend, Laguna Beach’s 70 lifeguards made 893 rescues along six miles of coastline, from Irvine Cove to Treasure Island Beach, said Captain Tom Trager. While that falls short of the record 1,400 saves made last year over another three-day weekend, he said, “the kids are tired, everyone’s smiling. They are pretty aware of what they accomplished.”

OC Lifeguards, who patrol beaches from Aliso Creek to Poche Beach in San Clemente, assisted another 200 people from the water over the three day weekend, said Chief Jason Young, who supervises 60 guards based in Dana Point.

The most dramatic involved two young women, one of whom was injured, stranded on a rock reef at Thousand Steps Beach as the tide was rising at 7:55 a.m., also on Saturday, July 2, Young said.

A sheriff’s helicopter with a hoist lowered a member of the sheriff’s rescue personnel to extract the injured woman, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Mark Stichter said.

She had been thrown against the rocks by surf after going through a cliff cave, said Young. She and her rescuer were hoisted by helicopter and taken to nearby Mission Hospital, Stichter he said.

Lifeguards were able to assist the other uninjured woman, who left the beach from a private stairway in Three Arch Bay, Young said. “They did not have the awareness of the conditions,” he said. The women were not further identified.

A Santa Barbara photographer observes surfers and lifeguards aid a woman swept into the sea in Crescent Bay on Friday, July 1. After firefighters splinted what looked like a broken right ankle, she was carried to an ambulance for treatment. Photo by Zack Warburg
A Santa Barbara photographer observes surfers and lifeguards aid a woman swept into the sea in Crescent Bay on Friday, July 1. After firefighters splinted what looked like a broken right ankle, she was carried to an ambulance for treatment. Photo by Zack Warburg

With waves as high as eight feet, 74-degree water and crowds estimated at 60,000 people each day, guards restlessly patrolled the sand, cautioning beachgoers and assisting hundreds from the water.

Two-thirds of the rescues involved rip currents, a byproduct of a south swell lashing south-facing beaches, while the others involved waders knocked from their feet in the surfline. St. Ann’s Beach proved particularly treacherous. Lifeguards made multiple-victim rescues at St. Ann’s, but rip currents pulled out swimmers at Main Beach, Crescent Bay, Victoria and Shaw’s Cove as well, Trager said. Guards responded to five serious medical aid calls and to 1,500 minor ones over the three-day period, he said.

Police reported eight alcohol-related arrests and 293 calls, about average for previous Independence Day weekends, police Captain Jason Kravetz said.

 

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