La Jollans help rescue divers caught in kelp near Children's Pool

Lifeguard tower at the La Jolla Children's Pool. Photo: File
Lifeguard tower at the La Jolla Children's Pool. Photo: File

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Jim Ridgway's routine early-morning stroll along Coast Boulevard near Children's Pool turned into an extraordinary impromptu rescue Sunday, Oct. 3.

"I walk down there south of Children's Pool almost every morning and I was walking along and heard this voice saying, 'Help, save me,'" he said. "There was another couple and another guy in the area and we looked at each other and said, 'Did you hear that?' We looked out over the cliffs into the ocean and we could see a scuba diver lady on her back."

The 70-year-old Ridgeway said one of the five-member group went to call 9-1-1 while the other four went to assist the diver. "We went down a very narrow trail with a pretty good drop off at the end," he said. "We grabbed the scuba diver to keep her from going back out because the surf was breaking and it was very heavy and she had all her equipment on and it was very difficult for her and she was panicky."

With the assistance of two other divers, Ridgeway and the three others on land were able to get the diver out of the surf and onto land. Lifeguards who had been at Black's Beach arrived shortly thereafter, Ridgway said.

Lt. Andy Lerum, San Diego Lifeguard spokesman, said the incident occurred at Wipeout Beach just south of Children's Pool at 7:33 a.m. "Three divers were out diving and the female wanted to abort and as she tried to kick to the beach she entered a rip current and was struggling," he said. "The other two went to assist her and all three got caught in the strong current and breaking waves where there was a lot of kelp."

Lerum said that's when the passersby along shore noticed their plight and came to their assistance. Though it worked out well this time, Lerum cautioned that such impromptu rescues can turn out badly. "It's a judgment call," he said. "But too many times we've seen it go the other way with citizen rescuers becoming victims as well unless they're physically fit and trained."

Lerum said swimmers and scuba divers are urged to always recreate in areas protected by lifeguards.

Ridgway said the female diver was taken to the hospital for treatment as a precautionary measure.

The rescue, though it seemed long, only involved about five or six minutes, said Ridgway. "I'm just glad the four of us were there and could help," he said.

   
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