La Jollan rescues young diver near the Marine Room

By Ashley Mackin

An early morning dog walk turned out to be a heroic venture for one La Jolla woman, who assisted a young diver in distress, saving her life.

Beverly Bica said she was walking her service dog, Branson, in the early morning hours of Oct. 9, “That one stormy day we never get,” and while crossing the beach in front of the Marine Room, she saw a diver out in the water. Because of the predicted storm, she said, lifeguards were not out in that particular area.

Bica said she noticed the diver (small enough in stature that she thought it was a young boy), couldn’t get to the beach with all the equipment on and kept getting knocked over by waves.

Later determined to be a girl named Christina, Bica said, “I was watching and she would try to get out but she just kept being knocked down and the waves would pull her under.” She reported that Christina was wearing two oxygen tanks and joked that the equipment weighed more than the diver!

“She was just not going to make it in,” Bica said. “I didn’t really think about it ... I didn’t do anything that any one of us wouldn’t do.”

So she ran into the water with Branson and tried to release the diver from her gear, which proved to be a challenge as the tide was coming in and the waves were getting higher.

Because the snap system was similar to that of Branson’s service vest, Bica said she was able to release the gear and help the diver out of her fins, which were firmly in the sand. Once the fins were off, she said, the diver was released.

“She held on to me and I held on to Branson,” Bica said, and the trio made it the beach.

Out of breath to the point of turning blue, Christina sat on the beach with Bica until she caught her breath.

Bica later learned it was Christina’s first dive and that while she went out with her father and brother, they got separated. “I tried to assure (instead of admonish) her because you don’t want to break the spirit of a young girl ... I didn’t want to ruin her love of the ocean or discourage her from the beauty of the ocean and the Cove.”

Bica brought Christina to her nearby home, made her some tea, and gave her some clothes, and then she walked her to the family car where she was able to later connect with her father and brother (who apparently were diving through the whole incident and didn’t realize Christina was no longer near them.)

“You don’t think, you just do. This is how we treat our fellow man,” Bica said.

A former volleyball player, surfer and swimmer, Bica was confident in her ability to get Christina out of the water. Bica has Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the muscles, joints and mucus membranes, often resulting in joint pain and swollen salivary glands.

Saying that La Jolla is full of “humble” and “remarkable” people, Bica does not put herself on that list. She said she is not remarkable for what she did, although Christina’s family surely would.