Saturday, January 15, 2011

"LIQUID LANDINGS" by Bruce R Morgan

(Google image photo source:

IN THE SUMMER MONTHS OF THE EARLY 1980's we had a special spectacle at Rose Avenue.

Background to the incident - Venice had been a rescue hot spot since way before my time, 1975-2004. The surprising area was Brooks Ave., which had a peak in the late 50's. Brooks also had a headquarters or a big post tower "back in the day".

At the time of the Liquid Landing, the Brooks Ave. tower sat very high off the ground on top of the jetty that was there at the time and because it was one of those tall fiberglass towers. This enabled the lifeguard at Brooks Ave. to have an exceptional perspective of the beach. Now up at Rose Ave where the incident of the Liquid Landing occurred was an on again off again rip tide that created a wedge of water that looked like an aqua launching ramp which often trapped as many as 36 to 40 bathers - this I personally saw and responded to many times.

We had some great rescues at the Rose Ave. rip tide with back up coming from Thornton Ave and Brooks Ave while Westminster and Wavecrest guards watched the breakwater north area. The worst thing you could do was to allow all guards to pile into one incident leaving the beach unguarded.

On this one particular day in the mid 1980s in July or August, a small light plane dragging a sign developed engine trouble. The pilot was fortunately able to make a perfect landing on the water despite having no pontoons. As the lifeguard personnel reacted, including myself, the guard at Rose - name withheld - literally became unglued and hit the water screaming to his left and right with his eyes large and wild. Amidst his excitement he was, however, able to alert people to leave the water and suspected that he would have to dive for the trapped pilot.

Meanwhile, on my run from Brooks Ave. to the location of the plane at Rose Ave., I was able to observe the pilot swimming into the beach as the panicked lifeguard was swimming out. They literally passed each other and it took everything I had to not fall down and laugh hysterically at the developing chaos and circumstances.

As I had come from Brooks Ave, I had the advantage of seeing something that the Rose Ave. guard had missed - no fault of his. Before the surf line amidst the swimming lookie loos and the lifeguards in ardent rescue mode there was a lone, quiet and nonchalant swimmer with a shirt on. He was bearded and looked like the dog that had just stolen the thanksgiving dinner. He swam in and I mentioned to the guards I caught up with that we may, in fact, have the pilot accounted for - that was in fact the case.

However, there was not a darn thing wrong with the full response in progress since there may have been a passenger inside the plane. With our Baywatch rescue boat on scene the plane sank but was in tow. With all hands accounted for, we all returned to shore and I saw the pilot sitting in the area unit vehicle which at that time we called "205" (our Venice North patrol truck). He was clearly embarrassed since the story was already circulating that he had run out of gas. This out of gas situation, by the way, can happen to very good aviators who are flying against headwinds that were not foreseen, although I don't think that was the case here.

We were lucky that day because I cannot imagine where this guy would have landed if he was forced down into the middle of one of our typical forty victim rip tides that occur at this exact spot.

The pilot motto for unscheduled landings is pick something soft and cheap. Our motto, of course, is when in doubt GO and Go till all persons are accounted for. It was a good day and good test of our Venice Lifeguard crew and it is always great when rescue operations end with success and a sense of humor...

Till Next Time - Cheers!
Bruce R Morgan

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Many Thanks to Bruce for sharing this interesting rescue story with all of us. If any of our readers would like to share a rescue story with us, please let us know.

Until next time.....

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