Seal Beach lifeguard saves girl’s life

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Justin Stevenson

A Seal Beach lifeguard saved a child’s life Friday, May 27, according to Marine Safety Department Chief Joe Bailey.

She was one of several hundred visitors to the beach that day. Bailey said that the best part of the rescue was that the lifeguard was able to spot this one person out of a large group as she floated face down in waist-high water.

Bailey said a lifeguard is trained to scan the area. However, he said lifeguards tend to focus on the people who are furthest out because those are the ones who will present the lifeguard with the most trouble.

Yet third-year Lifeguard Justin  Stevenson spotted a girl who was very close to shore.

“It’s really just a great job by Justin,” Bailey said.

The following is Bailey’s account of the incident:

Lifeguard Justin Stevenson was assigned to Tower 1. The surf was 2 -3 feet high, with rip currents pulling moderately. Stevenson had a group of 350 middle school children visiting from the Rio Hondo School District.  The classes were celebrating the end of the school year with a beach party.

Stevenson made several rescues throughout the morning, the result of a large rip current pulling just to the right of Tower 1.

While returning from a rescue in the early afternoon, Stevenson looked to his left and noticed a girl floating face down.  He quickly ran to her location and turned her right side up.

She was unconscious.

According to the police log, she was in water 2 feet deep at the time.

According to Chief Bailey’s account, Stevenson  carried her in to the water’s edge.

Bailey said that when you don’t see the incident that harmed the person you are rescuing, you have to consider the possibility that the victim has suffered a spinal injury.

Bailey said Stevenson came up behind the girl, put his arms under her armpits and held her head with both hands. Bailey said the maneuver resembles the “half Nelson” wrestling grip. The purpose is to stabilize the neck.

As it turned out, the girl wasn’t suffering from a spinal injury. However, Stevenson couldn’t know that.

“You don’t know how she got there,” Bailey said.

Once he had the girl on shore, Stevenson found she was unresponsive and not breathing.

He pulled something out of her mouth that was described as a “breathing barrier” in the incident report.

The girl suddenly started coughing and foaming at the mouth.  She was then placed on high flow oxygen and placed on a backboard before she was transported back to Lifeguard Headquarters for further treatment. She was eventually taken to the hospital.

The school advisor came down later in the day to speak with Chief Bailey.

The school had witnessed the rescue.  The advisor told Bailey that Stevenson had saved the girl’s life. The school adviser also said some of the classmates observed the victim before in what they described as having a seizure right before falling head first into waist deep water.

“We get three or four (incidents) like this every year,” Bailey said.

Seal Beach lifeguard saves girl’s life