Wednesday was a work day like any other for La Jolla Shores kayak tour guide Marie Webb until she was called upon out in La Jolla’s sea caves to save someone’s life.
“We had just visited the sea lions and were headed up to the next cave and I was like, ‘This is the Clam Cave,’ ” said the 21-year-old guide who was shepherding a four-boat tour. “Then I heard somebody yelling for help.”
Webb, who had a walkie-talkie, told her party to stay put while she paddled toward the cries, which turned out to be a near-drowning victim, an unconscious middle-age man.
“He was a larger man with gray who was not breathing and his face was a little bit purple and blue,” said Webb. “His wife was screaming for help.”
Maurice Luque, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman, said the 57-year-old man had been snorkeling in the caves with his two female companions when they were overcome by a wave.
“The two females saw the wave and swam out of its path,” he said. “He didn’t and got caught up in the wave that broke and he was found facedown by a kayaker who called lifeguards to resuscitate him about 11:09 a.m.”
He was taken to Scripps La Jolla, Luque added. Information on his identity and condition were not immediately available.
Webb said she and a man in her tour group managed to lift the victim into her kayak on his back where he immediately resumed breathing.
“My first priority was just to get help on the way so he could get to land,” said Webb, who was dealing with a lifesaving situation for the first time. “My first feeling was, ‘Oh my gosh, I really am making a rescue here.’ My second feeling was, ‘Stay calm.’ ”
Lifeguards arrived promptly and spirited the victim away on their JetSki.
""I was in the right place at the right time,” added Webb. “There was nobody else out there in the area that could have gotten help to him that soon. They probably would have had to wait another 10 to 20 minutes for the next tour to come around that had a walkie-talkie. I’m just glad I could help.”
Marcella Di Michieli, president of San Diego Bike & Kayak, the Shores business where Webb works, said she was proud of the way Webb handled the situation.
“She kept her cool,” said the kayak shop owner who is a Red Cross instructor. She teaches people the worst mistake they can make in an emergency is to panic. “Maintaining a clear head is one of the most critical things that you can do.”
Di Michieli said all of her company’s tour guides are required to be certified for professional
rescue first aid and to have attained a lifeguard rating.
“On top of that we have our own company training program which includes an emergency response plan which is pretty rigorous and pretty long.,” she said. “Our employees actually go through 120 to 150 hours of multi-faceted training to help them safely determine a tour route on a given day covering a variety of emergency response situations on land and in the water.”
Pointing to Webb, Di Michieli said, “This is the perfect example of somebody who’s been trained appropriately.”