Man who nearly drowned after boat capsized continues to recover: Nurses recall lifesaving efforts

Riley Lopo recovering at UCSD Medical Center

SAN DIEGO - Five medical professionals at the right place at the right time made it possible for an 18-year-old man rescued from the sea to make a remarkable recovery.

"He looked blue and just passed out and his head was tilted back and you could see that it looked like he had swallowed a lot of water," said Christina Barrett, an N.I.C.U. nurse at UCSD Medical Center who was spending a day fishing when she became part of a rescue effort off the coast of La Jolla.

Mike Lopo and his adult sons Zach and Riley were fishing for sharks about a mile off the coast of Del Mar when his boat began taking on water. When the boat sunk, the three men were faced with a terrifying ordeal that lasted more than three hours. They were caught up in a strong current that swept them more than four miles from their boat. That was when a captain aboard the New Seaforth, an 80-foot fishing boat, spotted Zach.

After pulling him aboard, they learned that Mike and Riley were still floundering in the water. When they got to the two men, Riley was in bad shape.

"He looked like he was dying," said Barrett. "It was really emotional and scary."

As Riley was hoisted onto the boat Barrett noticed he was blue and lifeless. She knew what she had to do, and so did three other nurses and an EMT who were also on the fishing boat.

For 45 minutes, they administered CPR and wondered whether Riley would make it.

"It was definitely a group effort," Barrett recalled.

"It all came together," said Michelle Emory, a nurse from Yuba City, who called it "a life-changing experience" for those involved.

Riley's mother told 10News her son walked out of the Intensive Care Unit of UCSD Medical Center on Sunday night. She called his recovery a miracle, and told 10News it was God's will.

Lori Lopo says she wants to personally thank all the people who helped save her son's life.

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