Rescue

From left, Adrian York, Spenser Stratton, Taj Ortiz-Beck and Narayan Weibel at Trinidad State Beach in California several days after they rescued two distressed swimmers.

The four teenage friends were riding five-foot waves in the choppy Northern California ocean for about two hours last week when they stopped for a brief rest in the water on their surfboards. That was when the frantic cries for help started.

The high school soccer players peered through the fog about 100 feet across Trinidad State Beach and saw two heads dipping in and out of the cold ocean, arms flailing.

“We all looked at each other and knew these guys were about to drown,” said Narayan Weibel, 16, who along with his friend Spenser Stratton, 16, took part in a summer junior lifeguard program.

Weibel and Stratton, with their friend Taj Ortiz-Beck, 15, quickly swam over to the distressed swimmers, a pair of brothers ages 15 and 20. The fourth friend, Adrian York, 16, a certified lifeguard, raced to shore to get a bystander to call 911.

“We were paddling to get there as fast as we could,” said Ortiz-Beck, adding that he and his friends were wearing wet suits that afternoon, Nov. 11. “It was pretty stressful, but there wasn’t any time to think about it, and that helped me keep my cool.”

When they reached the swimmers, who were wearing T-shirts and shorts, the fog thickened around them. Ortiz-Beck helped hoist the younger brother on his board, he said. Stratton and Weibel worked together to help the 20-year-old, who they estimated weighed between 250 and 300 pounds.

“We told them, ‘Calm down — we got you!’ “ said Weibel. “Being out in that cold water without a wet suit is like taking an ice bath. They were having a hard time keeping their heads above water and thought they were going to die.”

York, who had made it back to the shore and instructed somebody there to call 911, jumped back into the surf to help Ortiz-Beck get the 15-year-old ashore.

They paddled the brothers several minutes back to safety on the shore.

The inexperienced swimmers had been out for some afternoon fun on Veterans Day with four family members when they ventured too far into the ocean and a rip current swept them away into deep water, said Dillon Cleavenger, 27, a lifeguard and trainer for California State Parks who was among those who responded to the 911 call.

The swimmers’ relatives couldn’t see them in the fog after they were pulled farther from shore, said Cleavenger.

“The water was a chilly 51 degrees, and because they weren’t particularly strong swimmers, they weren’t able to stay afloat,” he said.

“When we get a call like this one, it’s usually too late by the time we get there,” he added. “People can get hypothermia and drown out here in seconds.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind those guys would have drowned without their quick intervention,” said Cleavenger. “To find out they’ve been through our lifeguard program — we’re all really proud of them.”

Wednesday, December 04, 2019
Tuesday, December 03, 2019