Huntington Beach: Two swimmers, lifeguard rescued

4:46 PM, Jun 25, 2012   |    comments
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BAY VILLAGE --  Two swimmers and a lifeguard had to be rescued from off Huntington Beach Monday morning.

According to Cleveland Metroparks spokeswoman M. Jane Christyson, a group from the PEP Hopewell Day Treatment Center in Cleveland was on a school-related visit to the park Monday morning.

In a written release, the school said that, as the students were wading in the water, one of the teachers noticed a change in the water conditions and that one of the students was being pulled further from shore.

When the teacher reached to help the child, the teacher was swept under.

Seven Metroparks lifeguards responded to help the student and teacher. One of the lifeguards had to be rescued as well and treated for exhaustion. The U.S. Coast Guard and surrounding police and fire departments took part in the rescue effort.

The individuals who were taken to St. John West Shore Hospital are: Laura Recco, 46, Diamond Harris, 9, and Cleveland Metroparks lifeguard Christian Pesarchick, 19.

Harris was later transferred to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. 

In its statement, the school offered thanks to the rescuers.  "We are grateful to all who helped rescue them to safety and we are monitoring their conditions closely. Our hearts and thoughts are with our colleague and our child, as their safety and well-being remain our highest concern."

Strong rip currents were likely to blame for the swimmers' distress. The conditions on the lake were enough to give even experienced swimmers and lifeguards reason to pause on Monday.

"The way the lake is, I'd be a little scared going out there to save somebody," said Bob Gregory, of Westlake.

Waves like those on Monday might keep Bob Gregory out of the water, but his son, lifeguard RJ Gregory, jumped right in this morning.

He was one of seven lifeguards who went to rescue Laura Recco and Diamond Harris.

"[RJ] went after one of the kids, brought them back, and then participated going after the lady but she was pretty critical when they brought them in," said Gregory. "They did CPR and tried to bring them back."

Rescuers rushed the swimmers and fellow lifeguard Christian Pesarchick to the hospital.

"Pretty traumatic thing, you never think you wake up in the morning, go for a little swim and this happens," said Gregory.

A combination of weather events helped created the potentially dangerous conditions on the water.

"This is unusual cold air moving over the lake here for late June. It's also producing strong winds. These strong winds are reacting with the lakeshore and they are producing what we call rip currents," said Gary Garnet, Cleveland's warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service issued an advisory warning swimmers this morning.

"They are dangerous because they are powerful and strong and pull water out toward the lake," said Garnet.

Once you're caught in a rip current, swimming parallel against the shore is your best way out. But Garnet says even an Olympic swimmer could struggle against these currents strength.

Swimmers could face the same conditions again on Tuesday.

When you are at the beach, here's what to look for.

"You'll see water churned up, it will be foamy, there will be discoloration, where the water is a little dirtier from the sand being kicked up. That's a clue to you that the water is rushing back outward into that area."

Swimmers should know to avoid it.


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