1998 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees
1998 Medal of Valor Honorees
Ocean Lifegaurd Captain Fernando Boiteux
In October 1997, Fernando Boiteux was serving as an instructor for a Swiftwater Rescue Technician Class. In order to offer realistic moving water for training purposes, the class was held at the Sylmar Water Filtration Plant. The class included sheriffs, firefighters, and lifeguards.
Fernando was the instructor for a segment whereby students are given the opportunity to experience the feel of the water in what is known as a “hydraulic.” A hydraulic is like being in the white water at the bottom of a waterfall or a white water in a wave. It is incredibly turbulent. There is so much air in the water all you can do is fall – you have no control. Every possible safety precaution is taken with the trainees due to the obvious danger. They wear helmets. They are attached to safety lines held by safety personnel. They start in calm water and then enter the turbulent area before being flushed out down the stream. Instructions are given as how to handle themselves before, during, and after the experience.
The last trainee, a Los Angeles County Sheriff, swam into the hydraulic and was forced underwater (not an unusual occurrence). The problem was, he did not resurface. After 3-5 seconds, the men holding the safety lines pulled on the lifeline but it went taut. The Sheriff was stuck on the bottom in the most violent section of the hydraulic. Several attempts were made to pull him up from different angles, all unsuccessful.
At this point, Fernando Boiteux who was also secured to a lifeline realized that something was dramatically wrong and jumped into the hydraulic to attempt a rescue. He swam to the most violent section, making sure that he did not get tangled in the existing lifelines, and dove. He tried to follow the lifeline to the bottom but it was like being in a washing machine. He could not control his search. As he surfaced, amazingly, he found the victim. Floating next to him, face down and unconscious. He grabbed the sheriff, opened his airway, and instructed the safety personnel to allow him to move down the channel where he could easily be taken out. The sheriff began breathing on his own, regained consciousness, and was transported to the hospital where he fully recovered. It was determined later that the victim’s helmet had become lodged in a cement area at the bottom of the channel and only when his chinstrap broke, did he become free and come to the surface.
Ocean Lifeguard Zachary Smith
On May 15, 1998, Zach Smith was driving home at 3:30 am on the 5 Freeway near the 605 overpass. As he drove by, he noticed a car was off to the side, upside down, and the engine was on fire. After the incident, he found out that the victim had fallen asleep; the car had hit a lamp pole and flipped over. When he drove by, Zach looked to see if anyone was in the car. To make sure, he pulled over and ran back to check it out. As he got closer, he saw through the flames a silhouette and heard screams for help.
For a few seconds, he thought about the danger of climbing into a car that was on fire. He knew however, that he could not live with himself if he just watched another human being burn to death without doing something. He made the decision to act.
He noticed that the rear window was broken so he went around to it and kicked out the rest of the glass and climbed into the car. The driver was trapped in the car because his weight was on the buckle of the seat belt and he could not free himself. Zach lifted him, allowing the seat belt to be released. The next obstacle was pulling him from the front to the rear of the car. The roof was crushed down and getting past the seats proved to be a problem. At that point the fire was beginning to break through the firewall from the engine compartment into the passenger area. Somehow he found a way to pull the victim into the back area and out the rear window. As the two men scrambled away from the car, the gas tank exploded and the car was consumed in flames.
1998 Lifetime Achievment Honoree
Deputy Director Department of Beaches John McFarlane
John McFarlane is the recipient of the 1998 Los Angeles County Lifeguard Achievement award. To his peers, John McFarlane epitomizes the perfect lifeguard. John was an avid surfer and competitor and was immediately drawn to lifeguarding.
He began his career as a recurrent lifeguard in 1951 and three years later he received a promotion to permanent lifeguard. He primarily worked at Torrance beach and his calm, professional supervision style made Torrance a very popular assignment for the other lifeguards. John took an exceptional amount of pride in the job and expected other to share that pride and commitment.
In 1968, John promoted to a lieutenant and was in charge of the Redondo and Torrance beaches. John was actively involved with lifeguard training and was particularly effective in instructing the incoming rookie lifeguard classes. His education and “lead by example” supervision style made him a very effective leader.
In 1974, the Santa Monica lifeguards merged with the County lifeguards. John was promoted to Captain and reassigned to Santa Monica. Taking over just three days before the Fourth of July at one of the world’s busiest beaches was quite a challenge, but he effected a smooth, professional transition. His success in that endeavor was a challenge that he has termed one of the “proudest” years of his career.
John worked in an administrative assignment at the Lifeguard Division Headquarters for the final seven years of his career. John has always been a steadying influence and brings incredible credibility to every job and situation. He is a great listener and communicator and, as a result, has the ability to bridge the gap between many different factions. His Los Angels County lifeguarding career spanned decades, three department changes, six lifeguard chiefs, four ranks, two agency mergers and countless lives saved. He witnessed and participated in the evolution of professional lifeguarding. He saw the first Baywatch christened, fought for parity with other rescue agencies and served as a role model and an advocate for lifeguards.