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First responder recalls Oceanside water rescue of young girl

Posted at 6:24 AM, Mar 24, 2023

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) – Crews from the Oceanside Police Department and the Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue teams springing into action Wednesday night.

 “From all we know she jumped or somehow fell 35 feet into freezing water,” said Officer Katrina Nunez of Oceanside Police.

Witnesses called about a young girl who had somehow fallen into the San Luis Rey River just after 10 p.m.

Nunez was one of the first officers to get to the bridge near Douglas Drive and Pala Drive, and locate teenager down below in the fast-moving water and to keep her calm.

“It was really hard honestly because we could barely hear her. The water was flowing really hard. And it was raining at the same time and we still had traffic going in and out,” Nunez said.

Nunez told ABC 10News it appeared the girl was in water that was up to her chest.

She said the river typically isn’t like this.

“I’d say it’s very shallow water. But, due to the recent flooding and rain it was a lot higher than we expected,” Nunez said.

“Even water that’s up to your knees can take somebody and sweep them away. It’s very fast-moving water. It’s cold water and can quickly overtake someone,” said Battalion Chief Jon Regner of the Oceanside Fire Department.

Something Nunez and others kept in mind when arriving on scene and calling for a swift water rescue crew from Oceanside fire.

“You see this girl, she’s struggling in the water. But you want to make sure that we don’t just jump in and also have other people who are injured,” Nunez said. “Because that was one of the first thing we thought about is if we have a lot of additional resources, we don’t want to have someone else, you know, we don’t know the conditions.”

Crews got the girl a life vest before the Swift Water Rescue team was able to get her out from the cold fast water.

Oceanside Fire said their team’s position themselves to be prepared for everything.

“So, we want to put people upriver to look for any debris that coming down. We want to put people below down current, downstream in case somebody gets swept even further down,” Regner said.

The best ending to call for help for those who have a calling to help.

Nunez said she rode in the ambulance with the girl to the hospital where OPD said she’s recovering from her injuries.

“I just wanted to be able to be there for her because she’s going through a tough time. I mean it’s freezing. You practically have hypothermia with those types of temperatures and that weather. So just to be there for her, make sure she’s okay, reassure her that we are here to help her,” Nunez said.

The Oceanside Police Department does credit the witnesses for calling 9-1-1 and not jumping in to pull off their own rescue of the girl. The department said that could have led to additional injuries or loss of life.