Santa Cruz County

Three rescued near West Cliff Drive

Witnesses help to pull them to safety

Rescue near West Cliff Drive prompts new warning

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Jeff Lee watched as three people were pulled from the waters off West Cliff Beach Tuesday.

"I noticed a bunch of people running around and panicking," Lee said. "I saw a guy in the water, facing up at least, and another gentleman swimming towards him and grabbing him in a rescue maneuver and keeping him above water. And the wave kept on pounding."

They were visitors from Los Banos. A local and surfer, Lee knew what to do.

"I'm looking around, and I can't run right now, so I noticed one of the life saving rings. I yelled to a lady, ‘hey, go grab that'," Lee said.

Witnesses threw a rope and flotation device into the water and were able to pull them onto the rocks. As visitors flock to the Central Coast this summer to enjoy the ocean, Lee says they might not know what to do.

"It looks like the signage on them have faded. If you don't know of haven't lived in a coastal community, you are going to be clueless as to what they are," Lee said.

But the Santa Cruz Fire Department is taking precautions to keep people safe. They have more resources than ever before.

"We have increased our staffing, the number of people on our fire engines and at the life guard division," Battalion Chief Mike Venizio said.

Nonetheless, first responders say it's ultimately up to you.

"They need to be careful. Everybody knows the power of the ocean, and a lot of people underestimate it. That's what these guys did," Venizio said.

During Tuesday's incident, one person was taken to the hospital and another was flown to a trauma center. Both are expected to recover. The third person refused medical attention.

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