1997 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees
1997 Medal of Valor Honorees
Rescue Boat Captain Kevin Marble
Rescue Boat Captain Phil Navarro
On March 23rd, the 91-foot tugboat Pelican Magic broadcast a distress call. She was four miles offshore, had lost all steering and was taking on water. The 109-ton, $2 million ship and it’s crew of six was about to sink to the bottom of the Catalina Channel 2,000 feet below.
Baywatch rescue boats from Cabrillo, Redondo, Marina del Rey, Avalon and the Isthmus on Catalina Island responded, as did a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and helicopter.
Arriving first, Baywatch Cabrillo found the tugboat listing 20 degrees to port with 2-3 foot waves breaking across its rear deck. Quickly aboard, the Baywatch deckhand found the engine room flooded in 6 feet of water. The Baywatch salvage pump could not handle the intruding seawater. Only when the salvage pumps from the other Baywatches and the Coast Guard vessels were put to work were crews able to keep up with the incoming flow.
To discover the source of flooding, Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Kevin Marble, the Baywatch Avalon deckhand, donned scuba gear and entered the water at the rear of the tug. Diving 20 feet under the stern, he discovered the propeller shaft from the port engine had broken loose from its mount, allowing water to flood the engine room. Additionally, the shaft had slid into the rudder, locking it in place.
Several lifeguards in the engine room pulled the shaft back into position. Marble packed the space around the shaft to further stem the flow.
Marble and Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Phil Navarro then entered the water. It was dark and the men operated with dive lights in the shadows of the ship’s two, 5-foot wide props and lengthy rudder. They attached a line to the broken shaft and secured it from the rudder.
With these repairs completed, the tugboat was able to proceed slowly under its own power back to the Port of Los Angeles under escort of Baywatches Cabrillo and Del Rey. Some 5 ½ hours after its distress call, the Pelican Magic was back at the dock. Navarro made one more check of the bottom before it was moored.
1997 Distinquished Service Honoree
Ocean Lifeguard Enrique Coello
On May 3rd, Ocean Lifeguard Enrique Coello was at the beach at Ave C in Redondo Beach on his day off. At the same time the lifeguard at Ave H, Scott Richardson, had just walked down to the water to prevent two men and a woman walking in waist-deep water from entering an inshore hole and riptide. The people were drifting dangerously close to the riptide and Scott began to waive for them to move to a safe location. They stepped off the shallow sand area into the deep water and it became instantly apparent that they could not swim a stroke. The three swimmers panicked and grabbed onto each other.
As Enrique watched the lifeguard swim out to the three victims, the situation turned critical. The two men panicked and grabbed onto each other and the woman was barely able to keep her head above water and was nearly submerged as the lifeguard arrived.
Enrique knew the lifeguard needed immediate help and he responded from the beach. As he made his way to the victims and the lifeguard, the woman was physically climbing on the lifeguard to get herself higher out of the water. The two men frantically tried to grab the floating rescue can from each other. The whole situation was compounded by the fact that none of the victims could speak English and were not responding to Scott’s verbal commands during the rescue.
Enrique swam out past Scott, who by now was intermittently being held under water by the woman, and approached the two panicky men. He calmed them down by shouting orders in Spanish. He instructed them to hold onto the rescue can and then assisted Scott with the woman. Enrique alerted a nearby surfer to come over toward the riptide and he commandeered the surfer’s board to help float the exhausted woman and the two men. With Scott, Enrique helped push the group toward shore, calming the victims with his Spanish instructions.
1997 Lifetime Achievment Honoree
Rescue Boat Captain Ed Perry
Ed Perry is the recipient of the 1997 Los Angeles County Lifeguard Achievement award. Through his 39-year ocean lifeguard career with the City of Los Angeles, Ed Perry continued his love affair with open seas he had found as a teenager. He operated the City Rescue Boat Vittoria, off Venice Breakwater for much of his lifeguard career, fitting his life into around-the-world ocean trips as an accomplished seaman.
On several occasions, he turned down promotional opportunities to have some time for big ships. His longest turn at sea was four years, captaining vessels for the Merchant Marines during World War II. He also captained cargo and tanker ships.
Ed shared his knowledge of the sea, stars, shipping and of course lifeguarding with all those who were willing to learn. He tutored many a young sailor in navigation, seamanship and rules of the road for their “Masters License”. Numerous guards who shipped out on tankers, freighters, and other vessels of trade over the years had Ed Perry to thank. Others remained lifeguards throughout their careers to rise to the rank of Captain and Chief, a position that interestingly enough, Ed never sought, or even desired. That was Ed, a leader without the title. But anyone who knew the man knew why he was always referred to as “the Admiral”.
After his retirement, he continued to share his experiences and training with other guards and kept the City, then the County rescue boat fleet in fine condition.