Fishermen honored for rescuing East County family from sea

Family treaded water for 3 hours off La Jolla

SAN DIEGO - Emotional words were exchanged and there was great deal of thanks for the three men who rescued an East County family from the ocean.     

"I just couldn't believe they finally saw Zach because we saw other boats that went by thinking they saw us and they didn't," said father Mike Lopo, recalling that day last May.

The captain of the New Seaforth and two crewmen were praised Monday by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security for their courage and actions: for saving Mike, Zach and Riley Lopo when they were cast adrift at sea.

"It's numbing to wrap your head around what happened," said New Seaforth fisherman Brian Castleton, one of the men awarded.

As 10News first reported last May, the Lopos were suffering from hypothermia and fatigue after their boat had taken on water and sank off the coast of La Jolla.

The three were struggling in the 62-degree water for more than three hours until they were spotted.

According to the Coast Guard, New Seaforth Captain RJ Hudson began to search the water with his binoculars then saw this: one single hand reaching upward for help nearly a quarter mile away.

New Seaforth crewman Derek Southern jumped into the ocean to help them.

Also, as luck would have it, there were four nurses on board and an emergency medical technician on the half-day fishing trip. 

Together, they spent more than 45 minutes on 18-year-old Riley, giving him CPR before he regained consciousness.

"Before one of my baseball games, I thought I was fine talking about it and but it was downhill from there," he said.

Riley is referring to an emotional interview with 10News last May just one week after it happened, when he was overcome with emotion.

"I just want to say thank you," he said as he started to tear up. "Without them, I wouldn't be alive."

Hudson and Castleton say it is a day they will never forget.

"I know all of us were crying on the phone driving home like a bunch of sissies, being big bad fishermen," added Castleton. "But it is what it is, you know, after you go through something like that."

The four nurses and the EMT will also be receiving a public service award later this week.

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