CARLSBAD — A pair of 14-year-old girls and two adult men recently put forth a heroic effort to save the life of a 20-year-old man from drowning.
The incident occurred on Oct. 2 at Carlsbad State Beach around sunset when the unidentified 20-year-old began struggling to swim out of the ocean near the Cherry Street entrance.
According to Bill Schmidt, he, his daughter, Lauren, and her friend, Jordan Neushul, saw another man in the water calling for help. The man, also unidentified, had noticed the 20-year-old just beyond the surf line, and caught in a rip current. He raced out to help the struggling swimmer.
Lauren Schmidt, a freshman at Carlsbad High School who plays club water polo and is a Junior Lifeguard, jumped back into the water to help.
“We were at the beach bodysurfing,” she recalled. “I put my wetsuit back on … I started swimming out there half way and realized there were two guys out there.”
Once she reached the pair, she put the unconscious man’s arm around her, told the other man to do the same and to start kicking to get back to shore.
Bill Schmidt, meanwhile, came in and relieved the other man as the father and daughter combo continued to swim. He said two off-duty lifeguards met them in the water and finished the rescue.
“The two of them went out there and I thought it was to keep someone calm,” Bill Schmidt said of the initial response. “I threw on my wetsuit real quick and when I got out there, the guy was out cold. My daughter had this look on her face, she was real calm, but this look that this guy is in real trouble.”
Neushul, however, also came to the man’s aid as she provided support throughout the rescue, Bill Schmidt said.
“Foam was coming out of his mouth. He was out,” Lauren Schmidt explained. “It was a little scary because I didn’t know if he would live or die. He had stuff coming out of his mouth. I just thought I need to get him in right away.”
But lifeguards weren’t done, Bill Schmidt said. The man who made the initial rescue grew tired and started to drift in the rip current. Lifeguards quickly swam to his aid and pulled him on shore.
“It was just a lot to take in and I didn’t know if he was pausing,” Schmidt said. “I yelled, “Hey, are you OK?’ The lifeguards went out and threw a buoy around him.”
In total, four lifeguards and four good Samaritans assisted in the rescues and Schmidt said at least four Carlsbad fire engines and trucks were dispatched to the scene and transported the man to the hospital.
According to Lisa Urbach, State Parks interim North Sector superintendent San Diego Coast District, the 20-year-old survived, although she said she did not know if the man was released from the hospital.
“We believe the reason he went unconscious was exhaustion and he swallowed a lot of water,” Urbach said. “There are a lot of rip currents.”
The incident, however, stunned the Schmidts as they worried about the 20-year-old and whether he survived.
Bill Schmidt said the area is typically avoided by locals due to choppy conditions. Urbach said state and local officials believe the man may have been in the military and thus not familiar with the currents.
As for getting back in the water and battling dangerous conditions to help someone, Lauren Schmidt said she didn’t think twice.
“I knew there was a guy that needed saving,” she added. “I just hopped right in and I really didn’t know what I was going to get going out there. It makes me feel pretty good, but at the same time it’s a scary moment for me.”