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2002 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees



2002 Medal of Valor Honorees


Ocean Lifegaurd Specialist Chris Bredesen

In January 2002, Chris had traveled to northern Baja California for a surf trip with his 15 year old son, Scott, a cadet in the Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard Program, Scott’s surfing buddy Brad, and Brad’s dad, Bill Davidson.  Although it was a cold day and the water temperature was 51 degrees at best, the waves were breaking 6-8 feet and they had the spot to themselves.


As they surfed throughout the morning, they had noticed two men fishing in their 15-foot fishing boat just outside the breaking waves. After surfing for over two hours and the tide dropped dropping dramatically, Chris, Scott, Brad and Bill made their way to shore. As they walked around the rocky point, they saw that the fishing boat had capsized about a ¼ mile off shore when the tide had dropped and the large surf had caught them by surprise. The two fishermen were desperately clinging to the boat.


Chris simply reacted instinctively. He knew that he had to get out there. He knew that the two men would not last much longer, fully clothed in 51-degree water.


Shouting directions to Scott, Brad, and Bill while they carefully traversed the dangerously sharp rocks, Chris and his group quickly paddled through the surf to reach the boat. Upon arrival, they found that both fishermen were completely helpless, hypothermic, and unable to talk or swim. One victim was very large and had a badly injured shoulder. Chris directed his son, Scott, to take the smaller of the two victims onto his board. Chris took the larger victim.


As they Tried to assess the situation and stabilize their victims, the dropping tide and increasing surf pushed the rescuers and victims inside the surf line, directly towards the jagged rocks off the point. Several times, the rescuers, victims and boards got separated, but each time Chris coordinated the rescue efforts to get the victims and rescuers back on their boards. Finally, a local resident with warm blankets met them. After stabilizing the victims on the beach, the surfers left the men to be cared for by local lifeguard, police and fire authorities.


Without the heroic efforts of Chris and Scott Bredesen and Bill and Brad Davidson, the two fishermen would certainly have died.

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Dylan Jones

In February 2002, Dylan visited Hawaii for a surfing vacation. On this particular day, Dylan was surfing at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu. While relaxing on the beach between surf sessions, he noticed that a 24-foot cabin cruiser, with six people on board, was drifting closer and closer to the surf line. The boat’s engine had stopped and the crew could not get it restarted.


If the boat were to get caught inside the 6-8 foot surf, it would be destroyed on the shallow reef and six lives would be in jeopardy. Several swells had already broadsided the boat. Dylan grabbed his swim fins and a surfboard tie down strap, and immediately swam through the surf line to the boat, 400 yards off shore.


Once he had reached the boat. Dylan secured the strap to the boat’s bowline and began pulling the boat out to sea. Each set of waves would push the boat, along with Dylan, back towards the shore. The heavy boat, the large surf, and the dangerously shallow reef could easily have injured Dylan if they had been surprised by a wave. After he had been swimming for about 10 minutes and slowly making headway, a 10-foot outside wave suddenly rolled through. Dylan managed to keep the bow pointed to sea and punched through the wave but two of the passengers were washed off the boat. As they tried to climb back aboard the boat, Dylan had to stop towing, pull the victims away from the vessel, and secure them in lifejackets. After directing them back to the shore he returned to towing the boat. After another ten minutes, with the vessel safely outside the surf line, the local lifeguards arrived on scene and took over the tow with their personal watercraft.


For singlehandedly rescuing six people and a 24-foot boat from disaster, Dylan Jones is awarded the Lifeguard Medal of Valor.


2002 Distinquished Service Honorees


Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Eric Hendrickson

Eric was involved in a dramatic boat rescue off Palos Verdes in November 2001. A boat had been swept onto the rocks in 5-foot surf and the skipper was severely injured with an open fracture of his leg.  Eric swam in, treated the victim and hooked up the boat for a tow before it could be destroyed.

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Jonas Russell

In January 2002, Jonas rescued a surfer with a fractured leg off the Redondo Breakwall in 6-8 surf.

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Chuck Moore

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Scott Bernhoft

In December 2001, Chuck and Scott were involved in a personal water craft (PWC) search for missing kayakers off Corral Beach in 40-60 knot winds.

Ocean Lifeguard Captain Erik Albertson

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Jon Van Duinwyk

Ocean Lifeguard Zachary Smith


In February 2002, Jon and Zack made a double rescue in El Porto. The two victims and both lifeguards were caught in the drop zone and unable to make progress in 8-foot surf.  Eric Albertson was able to extract the victims and the rescuers with the use of a personal water craft (PWC) that he was in the area testing to determine its potential use as a rescue craft.


2002 Special Recognition Honorees


Ocean Lifeguard Captain Mickey Gallagher

Rescue Boat Captain Shelly Butler

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Steve Sturdivant

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Kirk Thomas

Ocean Lifegaurd Specialist Ivan Wilkins

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Drew Greger

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Brian Merrigan

Ocean LIfeguard Captain Erik Albertson

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Don Olson

Chief Lifeguard Don Rohrer

In March 2002, two Torrance teenagers, Andrea Goodman and Cherlyn Katsuno, were missing after a boating accident on the Colorado River. Local agencies on the river had exhausted their resources during the days of the search. A request was made through the Los Angeles County Fire Department for volunteers to help with the search. Dive Master Captain Mickey Gallagher organized a 10-man team of divers that worked without compensation and workers compensation protections to help recover the two missing girls from the river.



2002 Lifetime Achievment Honoree


Lifeguard Chief Don Rohrer


For 50-years, Don Rohrer has dedicated his life to ensuring that Los Angeles County beachgoers enjoy the highest levels of public safety. Don became a recurrent Ocean Lifeguard for Los Angeles City in 1952. He pursued a career that included the ranks of Captain, Rescue Boat Captain, Section Chief, and eventually Lifeguard Chief. His career included supervision of every facet of the beach operation and every beach in Los Angeles County.


As the Chief Lifeguard in the 1990’s, Don endured several political and budgetary crises without ever sacrificing public safety. He led the County Lifeguards through the political upheaval of losing nine State beaches, with a final resolution of reclaiming the operation of those beaches and placing them under County ownership and control. Most importantly, he realized the importance of finding a new home for the Ocean Lifeguards in a department whose primary mission was public safety. His efforts resulted in a monumental decision – The Ocean Lifeguards were merged into the Los Angeles County Fire Department.


Don was also a founding member of the Surf Lifesaving Association and was honored with a Life Membership in the United States Lifesaving Association. Through these organizations, Don has worked tirelessly to raise the levels of professionalism for lifesaving agencies throughout the country, and even the world. Don authored the “Marine Safety and Lifeguard Training Manual”, later co-authored the “United States Lifesaving Association Manual of Open Water Lifesaving”, and was a driving force behind the development of national standards for open water lifesaving agencies. He has also been a featured speaker a conferences held by the Hawaiian Lifesaving Conference, and the Royal Lifesaving Society of Great Britain.


Don continues to serve the profession as a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County Beach Commission and as President of the United States Lifesaving Association.


2002 Bredesen
2002 Jones
2002 DSH
2002 Special
2002 Rohrer
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