Student Eric Garcia describes what happened in the moments before two of his classmates, both 18 years old, lost their fingers during a game of tug-of-war. Garcia said Pablo Ocegueda was "calming the teacher down" after he and Edith Rodriguez were horribly injured. Ted Chen reports from Boyle Heights for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2013.
A tug-of-war game at a San Gabriel Valley high school left two students horribly injured, after the rope they were using wrapped around their hands and ripped off several fingers, authorities said.
The girl, whose name was not released by authorities, lost five fingers, Sgt. Jorge Marchena told NBC4. The boy lost four fingers.
The students, who are seniors, were identified in a get-well banner in front of the campus on Tuesday as Edith Rodriguez and Pablo Ocegueda.
The students were on the yard at El Monte High School at lunchtime on Monday when the incident occurred, Los Angeles County supervising fire dispatcher Eddie Pickett told NBC News.
Student Eric Garcia said Ocegueda was at the front of the tug-of-war line, near the center of the rope.
"He was trying to pull the knot and then when everyone pulled it tightened on him and it was too much force and it ripped through his hand," Garcia said.
Friends said Ocegueda remained calm, despite a scene of students screaming and lots of blood. He tried to calm a teacher and asked about Rodriguez, Garcia said.
The two 18-year-old students were taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment, and were in surgery overnight.
"They are both stable and the parents were by their bedside," Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center spokeswoman Rosa Sacca told The San Gabriel Valley Tribune on Monday. "They were getting ready to be taken to the operating room to try to re-attach the fingers."
Sacca said the surgery was completed, but would not disclose to NBC4 whether the students' fingers were successfully reattached. She later said the two were stable and moving about Tuesday.
A friend of Ocegueda's said doctors were not able to reattach the teen's fingers, but that the surgery on Rodriguez went successfully and her fingers were reattached.
El Monte Union High School District Superintendent Nick J. Salerno said officials will review activities associated with "Spirit Week," which the students were celebrating. The school has held such games for years, he said.
The district could eliminate tug-of-war games, he said.
"I've never heard of anything like this happening," he said. "It's unbelievable to me, it's shocking."
Similar injuries have occurred elsewhere.
In 2008, an 8-year-old girl nearly lost four fingers when her hand got tangled in a rope during a tug-of-war in Fergus Falls, Minn. The fingers remained attached by tendons and were reattached.
In 2007, two students at a high school in Parker, Colo., had their right hands partially severed during a tug-of-war at a pep rally.
In 1997, two men had their left arms torn off when a rope snapped during a tug-of-war in Taiwan that involved some 1,600 participants. Doctors managed to reattach the limbs.