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2017 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees

Abalone Cove - Site of Peppertree Incident

2017 Medal of Valor Honorees

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Chris Maloney

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Chris Staffield


Chris Maloney

Chris Staffield

At approximately 4 o’clock on October 1, 2016, lifeguards received a 911 call of a drowning near Sacred Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes.  The cove is in between Inspiration Point and Portuguese Point on the south side of the PV Peninsula and is an unguarded area of the coastline.

Lifeguard units from Cabrillo and Abalone Cove, Baywatch Cabrillo as well as LA County Engine 53 were dispatched.  OLS Chris Maloney, arrived at the top of the cliff and reported he could see 4 individuals in the water, struggling, and being recirculated in a rocky gorge. OLS Maloney, dressed in his protective gear of a helmet, wetsuit, with a, fin belt with and a rescue tube in hand, headed down the cliff face trail as Engine 53 arrived on scene. Upon arrival of lifeguards from Cabrillo Lifeguard Headquarters, Lifeguard Captain Josh Rosenstein assumed incident command and sent OLS Chris Staffield down the trail to assist OLS Maloney.  Rosenstein, summing up the seriousness of the situation, requested addition resources that included a helicopter an additional Paramedic Squad, two ambulances and additional fire personnel including a Section Chief and Battalion Chief before responding down the cliff himself. When Rosenstein arrived, one person was hanging on to a rock in the middle of the gorge while the other two victims were with OLS Maloney and OLS Staffield toward the back of the Gorge.  Surf Conditions were 3-5 feet. OLS Maloney brought his victim to an egress point and Rosenstein was able to assist him out of the Gorge.  OLS Maloney then went to secure the victim, who had now been washed off the rock, in the middle of the gorge. OLS Staffield brought his victim to edge of the gorge where he was removed from the water, then went to assist OLS Maloney with the last victim who they extricated together. The fourth victim was able to self-extricate himself just as rescuers arrived.

All victims, who nearly drown, were triaged and treated by Lifeguard and Fire personnel. One victim suffered a femur injury that required him to be airlifted to UCLA Harbor Medical Center. The three other victims were assisted up the trail, reevaluated, and released on scene.

Salt Verde Incident - Catalina Island

2017 Medal of Valor Honorees



Rescue Boat Captain Rob Pelkey

Rescue Boat Captain Lance Dempsey

Rescue Boat Captain Matt Rhodes

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Brian Kari


Rob Pelkey

Lance Dempsey

Matt Rhodes

Brian Kari

On June 25, 2016 Baywatch Avalon and Baywatch Isthmus responded to a 15-foot power vessel that had capsized and run aground after being hit by 6 foot waves.  The vessel had 7 people on board and several had been washed into the water when the vessel was hit by the large surf.


During the response from Avalon Harbor Captain Rob Pelkey was able to establish communications with the “Good-Sam”, a vessel on scene who had initiated the distress call.  The “Good-Sam” was able to recover two survivors from the water and relayed information that they could see one survivor sitting onshore near the overturned vessel on the rocks. Four victims were still unaccounted for when Baywatch Avalon arrived on scene.  Captain Pelkey started the initial search near the reef where the incident occurred and spotted two victims floating unresponsive in the debris field near the surf line.  He piloted Baywatch Avalon as near as possible and OLS Brian Kari swam to recover the victims and bring them back to the rescue boat.  They were determined dead at the scene.  Captain Pelkey then maneuvered Baywatch Avalon alongside the “Good-Sam” and OLS Kari and Firefighter Specialist Jeff Wilk boarded the vessel to treat the two survivors.  Determining that these patients needed immediate care at a trauma center, Captain Pelkey arranged for a LA County Fire Department helicopter to meet them where the patients could be medevacked to the mainland. Catalina Conservancy Ranger Danny Black, who responded from shore, had now made contact with the victim sitting on shore and arranged for him to be airlifted by a United States Coast Guard helicopter.


Baywatch Isthmus had now arrived on scene and Captain Lance Dempsey and Captain Matt Rhodes began a shoreline search for the remaining two victims. While conducting an interview with the “Good-Sam” Baywatch Isthmus picked up a radio transmission from the Coast Guard helicopter that they had spotted a person floating in the surf line.  Captain Dempsey piloted Baywatch to the location and Captain Rhodes swam in and recovered the victim, bringing him back to the rescue boat, where he was determined to be dead.


With one victim still unaccounted for, a coordinated land side search with Ranger Black was conducted.  After several minutes, the Ranger signaled to Baywatch Isthmus that he had found the last victim, alive, underneath the capsized vessel on the rocky shore line.  From the condition of the vessel, it seemed unlikely that there would be any survivors still onboard.  Ranger Black was able to extricate the victim from under the severely damaged vessel and bring him to a position of relative safety.  Again, Captain Rhodes swam to shore and helped render medical aid to the victim who was in critical condition. After the patient was packaged for transportation Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Air 5 airlifted the victim from the rocky shoreline and transported him to the mainland for treatment. 


2017 Distinguished Service Honoree

Ocean Lifeguard John Newton

John Newton

On March 16, 2017, Ocean Lifeguard John Newton and his wife were enjoying a day at Silver Strand Beach in Oxnard. Normally they go down by the ship at the south end of Silver Strand, but for some reason that day they decided to go to the jetty. About 30 minutes into their day, he heard some kids screaming. There was a big trench at the time, and there were two kids about neck deep, 10 yards from shore. John thought they might be messing around, or were panicking because they couldn't touch the bottom, but their cries for "Help” had him immediately coming to their aid. As he ran down he could see there was a body, and the kids were struggling to keep a man’s face out of the water. The rest of his body submerged. With the help of a surfer, John pulled the body from the water and instructed a bystander to call 911. John rolled the man on his back and started on compressions. The victim was unconscious, not breathing, with a deep head laceration.  As hands only CPR continued, the victim’s color and pulse returned. The Oxnard Fire Department arrived and took over care. The victim was released from the hospital a few days later and made a full recovery. John was recognized by the City of Oxnard and the Oxnard Fire Dept. for his heroic actions. 


2017 Distinguished Service Honorees

Captain John Greger

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Jeff Martinez

John Greger

Jeff Martinez

The day after Christmas on December 26, 2016, a cyclist on the Dockweiler bike path collapsed with no pulse and no respirations. A bystander camping with his family saw the event and rushed to help. The bystander was trained in CPR and was able to give bystander hands-only CPR within seconds of the event. Lifeguard Captain John Greger was patrolling the area in his lifeguard vehicle when he noticed the activity and a crowd starting to gather. Upon investigating he made resource requests via radio. He then worked with the bystander, administering defibrillation with his Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and joining the CPR effort all while ensuring that backup from Lifeguarding Operations were under way. Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Jeff Martinez arrived soon after to work with the bystander and Captain Greger, taking over airway and breathing management. The patient, Mr. Steve Whitsett regained a pulse after CPR, defibrillation, and ventilation. OLS Martinez continued to support respiration until arrival of Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics, who delivered Advanced Life Support and transport to an emergency hospital.


On April 24, 2017, a Lifeguard Division EMS Ceremony recognized the LACoFD Lifeguards, LA City Fire Department personnel, and the Good Samaritan from Las Vegas Fire Department who responded to the incident. At that time, the rescuers were reunited with their patient, Mr. Steve Whitsett.


2017 Lifeguard Lifetime Achievement Honoree

Chief Lifeguard Randy DeGregori (Retired)

Randy DeGregori

Randy DeGregori was born in Los Angeles California in 1945. He grew up in Glendale and then La Canada.


Randy began swimming at an early age, his mother would always require him to do laps before he was allowed to go out and play.  Serval days a week each summer, the family would travel to one of the beautiful beaches from Malibu to Huntington. This, before freeways.


A lifeguard recruited Randy to swim on the Glendale YMCA Swim Team. Many of the competitors he met went on to become Los Angeles County Lifeguards. The Glendale Y had a camp on Catalina, Camp Fox, where skin diving was a major activity. At an early age Randy went on to become a certified SCUBA diver. This before the current minimum age was established.


Randy continued competitive swimming all the way through college. In college, a fellow 200-yard freestyler enthusiastically told him about the Los Angeles County’s Ocean Lifeguards at Zuma Beach.  In 1964, Randy passed the rookie swim, and started his career as a lifeguard at Zuma.  Zuma had a bunkhouse at its headquarters that was a convenient place to reside for those lifeguards coming from outside the beach community. Later, Randy moved to Paradise Cove which brought him closer to some excellent surfing spots.


From 1967 through 1969, he served in the U.S. Army with the Military Police in the Panama Canal Zone. After discharge from the service he settled in Santa Monica, where he resumed lifeguarding.


In the spring of 1970, Randy passed the permanent lifeguard exam and started working at Zuma Beach. In 1972, he completed the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Certification Course (21 UICC.) He would eventually certify Lieutenant Paul Cocke, Captain John Baker and Assistant Chief Russ Walker as well as several other young permanent lifeguards. He was also an instructor for the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Academy.


Randy eventually took an assignment on Catalina Island at Isthmus Cove. Diving injuries were one of the main issues prompting the establishment of the Rescue Boat Operation at the Isthmus. Randy was trained in hyperbaric chamber operations at the University of Southern California Marine Science Lab in Big Fisherman’s Cove and was the chamber attendant on its first case. This was the start of a 7-year tenure as a Lieutenant with the Baywatch Rescue Boats.


In 1982, he became a Lieutenant with the beach operations and worked in both the Lifeguard Southern and Central Sections. He was promoted to Assistant Chief Lifeguard under Chief Don Rohrer in 1990 and was in a key position at the time of our merger with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Randy found the list of tasks required to integrate Beach Lifeguard Operations with the Fire Department endless but rewarding. After Don Rohrer’s retirement, he was promoted to Chief Lifeguard.


Throughout his career Randy continued to compete in lifeguard events and was on 7 winning Taplin teams, representing all 3 Lifeguard Sections. He primarily engaged in dory racing and twice won the West Coast Championship. In regional and national competition, he would enter paddling, swimming and ironman events. He twice traveled to Australia as part of a professional and competitive lifeguard exchange. 


Summing up his lifeguarding years, he stated “I have had a most stimulating and rewarding career.  I have been fortunate to work under many outstanding leaders and hope to have learned a little bit from each along the way.  As I see the new generations of talented men and women join the profession, I know the proud traditions and high standards that have been established are in good hands.”

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