Emergency responders describe dangers of coastline


The 17-year-old is still in intensive care. The coastline is certainly beautiful, but the wave action is very powerful and can be extremely dangerous.

"I found the boyfriend dragging his girlfriend out of the surf by the arm and she appeared to be unconscious," said Southern Marin County firefighter Jim O'Connor.

O'Connor described what it was like as he and others rescued a 17- year-old girl from a Marin County Beach Tuesday afternoon.

"Eight to 10-foot waves right off the shore which would break up onto the rocks and there was really no beach to stand on. We were able to get her out to a rock outcropping, but when the rescue helicopters came overhead, they were throwing rocks and debris on top of us," said O'Connor.

At one point the rescuers equipment was washed out to sea by a large wave like the one that surprised the teenagers.

A fourth man, a Good Samaritan in his 40s, was also helped to safety.

Wednesday's rescue was near where another 17-year-old, Alicia Scott Lee, fell to her death in March 2010.

"She fell off a cliff in the same region and again, it was teenagers out sort of partying in the area and not being aware of their surroundings," said Southern Marin Fire Chief Jim Irving.

On Wednesday afternoon the girl was caught in a rip tide.

"As the waves come in, they'll channel the water and then go out in a certain section and pull out. Some of them can be very short, but some can go out for a quarter of a mile," said U.S. Park Service Ranger Kevin Cochary.

Tourist Nancy Voit is from the East Coast where she says rip tides are common.

"I have struggled against an ocean and it is a very panicking feeling, but at some point I must have relaxed because I got in," said Voit.

A former Stinson Beach lifeguard, O'Conner was grateful he could help save a life this time.

"It was very gratifying for myself and the other members that were on the call," said O'Conner.

Rodeo Beach has a danger sign saying that people have been swept from the rocks and drowned. The best advice from the ranger is that the only beach for swimming is Stinson Beach. Also people who visit the coast should check the daily tide schedule and abide by it.

Here's a reminder about water safety from the U.S. Coast Guard:
"The Coast Guard would like to remind anyone who is going on the beach to be cautious of rip currents, rogue waves, and walking on the rocks, even during a seemingly calm day. These conditions can be magnified without warning, which can increase the threat of being swept out to sea. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore and do not panic. Remember to conserve energy and wave for help if someone is on the beach. Be conscientious of your children and keep them in sight at all times. Only swim in areas which lifeguards are on duty. The Coast Guard highly encourages swimmers, surfers and other people doing activities, on or near the water, to always go with a friend and to notify somebody else of where you are going and when you will return."

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