A sheriff deputy and a 13-year-old boy struggling for nearly two hours to stay afloat in the ocean off Harris Beach in Brookings were rescued Monday evening — but it took at least three attempts by rescuers to get the pair safely ashore.
The boy and Curry County Sheriff Deputy Terry Brown were suffering from hypothermia and rushed to a waiting an ambulance and transported to Sutter Coast Hospital.
During transport, Brown nearly succumbed to hypothermia after his core body temperature reached 93 degrees, said Sheriff John Bishop.
“He’s out of critical condition now, but it was close,” Bishop said at 8 p.m. “He basically saved that boy’s life,” he added.
The boy, a Brookings resident whose name was unknown at press time, suffered from minor hypothermia and is expected to recover, Bishop said.
Authorities responded to a 911 call at 5:37 p.m. of a boy floating about 150 feet from the beach. Brown arrived at the scene, stripped down to his t-shirt and pants, grabbed a lifejacket and swam out to the boy. The teen had been playing in the surf when he caught in an undertow, Bishop said.
Brown tread water and kept the boy’s head above the surface, occasionally yelling to police officers and firefighters who had climbed onto nearby rocks at the surf line but were not equipped to enter the 50-degree water and reach them.
Swirling currents just offshore pulled the pair north and south along the beach, hampering rescue efforts. At one point, several Brookings Police officers, including Officer Kyle Kennedy, waded out through crashing waves between the rocks to toss a lifeline to the trio. They were unsuccessful and the current carried the group south.
Search and Rescue swimmer Logan Couch, who lives in Brookings, arrived on scene and donned a wet suit and swimming gear. An onlooker went to the nearby campground to fetch a kayak, which Couch sat in and launched into the waves, only to have it capsize. He continued to swim out to the teen and Brown. However, the three – the teen, Couch and Brown – were quickly swept farther away from shore.
A U.S. Coast guard lifeboat from Chetco River Station had arrived by then and a crew member attempted to throw a lifeline to the trio, but was unsuccessful.
Sheriff Lt. John Ward, dressed in swim gear and carrying a life line, climbed onto a rock and then jumped into the water and swam to Brown, Couch and the boy.
SAR members and police officers on the beach slowly reeled in the rope, bringing all four people through the surf and safely to shore. Brown and the boy were loaded onto an offroad vehicle, buried in blankets and taken to waiting ambulances.
Catching his breath on the beach afterward, Couch said about Brown, “When I got to him, he was done. Hypothermia was setting in. They were out of time.”