Two San Diego Lifeguards are being hailed as heroes and will be nominated for their department's highest honor after their "brave" rescue of two men trapped in the San Diego River after dark, in the midst of heavy flooding and rain.
During San Diego's first full week of El Nino-fueled storms, which brought flooding, broken roadways and dozens of water rescues to the county, San Diego lifeguards and San Diego firefighters performed 67 water rescues over a five day period.
One particular rescue during that time period stood out to San Diego Fire-Rescue (SDFD) Chief Brian Fennessy. After dark on Tuesday, multiple SDFD and Lifeguard crews responded to reports of two men stuck in the San Diego River.
Two members of the Lifeguard River Rescue Team found the men in dense brush, in the middle of the main river channel.
The men were suffering from hypothermia and were lethargic because they had spent so much time stuck in cold, chest deep water.
"Due to the darkness and dense brush, this rescue was very challenging," Fennessy said.
SDPD's ABLE helicopter and SDFD's Copter 2 both came to the scene to help. Copter 2 tried to lower a paramedic to help the trapped men, but because of the thick brush, could not safely lower someone to help.
"The water was so deep and the vegetation so thick that another team of lifeguard rescuers who entered were unable to even locate the scene," Fennessy said.
Over the course of the next two hours, those two river rescue team members saved the men by carefully navigating their way back to safety with the help of Copter 2. Both victims were transported by paramedics and are expected to survive.
When Fennessy later spoke with Chuck Davey, a 30-year veteran of the department, he said Davey told him about the importance of the men’s difficult actions during such a tough time.
The two men who saved them will be nominated for the department's highest honors.
"As a result of their courage and perseverance during some of the most challenging and hazardous conditions a lifeguard can experience, both of these brave lifeguards will be nominated for the department’s highest honor," Fennessy said.
The identities of the men are not known.