HUNTINGTON BEACH — Two Huntington Beach High School students were praised Thursday after they helped rescue a 50-year-old surfer who collapsed on the beach in the grip of cardiac arrest.
The students, Jenny Moeller and Keith Black, both 15, spotted the man face down in the surf and pulled him to safety before flagging down a lifeguard on patrol, according to Battalion Chief Chuck Reynolds of the Huntington Beach Fire Department.
The victim, who was not identified, was taken to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach and, 45 minutes after being found, had recovered to the point of talking and sitting up, Reynolds said.
The freshmen students were participating in a school surfing class when they saw the surfer and his board at the water's edge about 7:45 a.m.
"He was sucking up water and sand and he was mumbling, trying to say stuff," said Moeller. "We were afraid to flip him over because we didn't know if he was paralyzed, but a wave came up and he swallowed more water, so we turned him over."
The teens, careful not to jostle the victim in case he had a spinal injury, scrambled to get him to safety and in a position where he could breath easier. Soon after, though, the man quit breathing and his pulse stopped. A lifeguard on patrol was nearby, so the students shouted and waved to draw his attention to the victim.
The quick action by the youths likely saved the man's life or spared him from brain damage due to lack of oxygen, Reynolds said.
"Their efforts deserve attention, they did an outstanding job," Reynolds said. "This guy was talking to his wife 45 minutes later because they helped."
Moeller said the incident was exciting, but she shrugged off the praise. "It was just good timing," she said.