Friday, May 12, 2017

"Mother's Beach, Summer 1974", by Dan Bridges

It's been thirty plus years since I heard Dan tell this story and it still gives me the chills.  Three little girls lives were saved solely because of Dan that day.  Love this story!  Let's read it together... as told by Dan in story format.

Dan Bridges, present day. Photo courtesy of Dan.

"The sun was shining brilliantly reflecting off the water's surface at "mother's beach" in Marina Del Rey, that summer day  in 1974. The roped off swimming area was teeming with young children playing in the water, bouncing off the bottom.  I was walking along the shore toward the open box on the sand that I was assigned to occupy for my shift that morning while I scanned the water for any signs of distress in the children.   Everything seemed fine.

By the time I got half way up the stairs to the chair in the box, I caught something out of the corner of my eye.  There was a hand sticking up out of the water and moving erratically in the middle of the swim area. In that moment I knew that I just needed to get out there as fast as I could.  I remember the feeling of panic within me as I leapt from the ladder that I had been climbing up to the platform.

I hit the sand running out into the water with my adrenaline pumping at full force through my body. I still had on my jacket as I ran through the shallow water and then swam full speed to get out to the spot where I had noticed the little hand sticking up out of the water amongst the crowd of children. The hand had disappeared under the water before I got there. The area was the infamous hole that existed at the time half way out to the buoy line.

As I approached the area I saw bubbles breaking the surface.  I saw a little face with two big brown eyes looking up at me from below the surface; she was sinking further down. Her arm was reaching up at me with the fingers extended.  I reached down into the murky water and grabbed  her arm. As I pulled she felt heavier than I had expected. Then I saw the other  two girls. They were holding on to her in a chain. Amazing how the survival instinct gives little kids the power to hold on to someone else using those little hands. I got them all to the surface; they gasped for air. They then re-attached themselves to me. One on each shoulder and one around  my neck. They were about five years old, so not strong enough to choke me.  I just started swimming breaststroke trying to keep their faces and  mine above the water until I could stand up. 

When I could stand up they held on to my hands until we got clear of the water. Their mother was there at the water's edge visibly shaken as she had watched me swimming in with them.
Fortunately, I got to them before they had taken a lot of water into their lungs. They would be OK. 

After they dried off, their mother brought them over to say thank you. I didn't think that I had done anything special being that it was my job to do what I had done. I was just in the right place at the right time to prevent a tragedy."

Dan Bridges

(Story © Dan Bridges 2017. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission. Reproduction of this story without Dan's express written consent is expressly prohibited.)

Not every guard could have made that triple rescue that day.  Dan's strong swimming skills played a HUGE part in the role of this multiple rescue.  In Junior College, I watched him win the State Championships in both the 200IM and 400IM.  This was before I met Dan as a lifeguard.  I watched him swim the 200IM with my coach, Johnny Joseph, and remarked "I wish we had that guy on our team!"  JJ did not disagree.  Dan Bridges rookie year was 1972 with L.A. County and he worked until 1992 before moving up north.  I asked Dan who else was in his rookie school and he replied, "I remember only a few guys from my rookie school. Dave Story, Val Jolley, Bernie Stenson."  Dan continues to train and compete as part of a Masters swimming program up north and still kicks ass and takes names in the IM!

As far as this triple rescue is concerned, I think I would have had to toss those little girls one at a time in toward shore a few times rather than try to carry them all together while trying to do breaststroke, that's for sure. Not Dan, though, as he was THE strongest and fastest multiple stroke swimmer I had ever seen.  There was also a dude from Cypress College that swam the 1650 Free who was an absolute machine but I can't remember his name but JJ watched him like a hawk and was very impressed by that swimmer's fitness and the precision of his flip turns and stroke speed. He was maybe 5' 9" tall and he smoked that race and won State hands down, but that's another story...

Many thanks to Dan for sharing this story with all of us. I've been after him FOR YEARS to tell it because it deserves more attention and besides who doesn't like a great rescue story with a happy ending?!...  Besides I've been telling it and not quite getting it right.  Thanks again, Dan!

Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

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