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sheriff badge star logoBy Andrea Swayne

Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies responded to a call at 5:12 p.m. on Monday reporting three people adrift at sea.

According to Dana Point Harbor Patrol Deputy Anthony Larios, the call came from a woman whose sister had called her screaming for help and saying she was drowning. The informant said her sister called her after an attempt to dial 9-1-1 on a cell phone did not go through and that all she knew was that her sister was in the water somewhere in the Dana Point area.

Deputy Larios, piloting the Harbor Patrol fire boat, and Deputy Terry Smith responded “Code 3,” with lights and sirens and requested air support from the OCSD helicopter.

“We decided to head out toward the area of Capo Beach, just on a whim,” Larios said. “It was a good hunch because we located an overturned personal water craft off of Olamendi’s Reef, about 200 yards from shore, even before air support arrived.”

The deputies found three victims in the water, clinging to a rented capsized PWC, Larios said.

The 37-year-old woman, her 13-year-old son and 15-year-old nephew were all wearing life jackets and all three displayed signs of hypothermia.

“When we got to them, they were all shivering badly and barely able to talk,” Larios said. “We got them onboard, wrapped them in blankets and requested medics to meet us at the fuel dock. Once on the boat, the younger boy gave me a big hug, very grateful and thankful. It was pretty neat.”

The mother and son are from Ladera Ranch, and the nephew was visiting from New Hampshire.

The victims told deputies their PWC capsized when a wave hit them and they estimated they had been in the water for about 45 minutes. The wind at the time was 15 to 20 mph with choppy 3- to 5-foot seas, Larios said.

All three were transported to San Clemente Hospital and released a few hours later with no serious injuries.

The deputies towed the rented PWC back to Dana Point Jet Ski.

“It was really good to see that all three were wearing life jackets. Had they not been, the situation could have been much worse,” Larios said. “I’d like to remind everyone participating in open water activities to practice marine safety. Even for those who believe they are great swimmers, it’s always important to have a personal flotation device. In the event of injury or hypothermia, it can become difficult to stay afloat. PFDs really are life savers.”

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