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Ocean Rescue: Interview with Chief Lifeguard
Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

Friday, February 28 started out early for Jon Edelbrock, Community Services Director and Chief Lifeguard, on his day “off.” It began with a 4:30 AM wake up call generated by residents dialing 911 in response to shouts for help they heard coming from the ocean. He and Deputy Chief Lifeguard Mark Rathsam were alerted that people in distress and a boat were on the Del Mar beach. This alarm has happened many times in the past but turned out to be an abandoned empty vessel left floating with the smuggled migrants long gone ashore.

This morning it was people left floating, victims of a “dump and run.” The boat runner, evidently “spooked,” tossed his passengers overboard, albeit with life jackets. “Mark and I came in, put on our wetsuits and got lights—“we only had 20% illumination from the moon.” Trained for such rescues, “We launched our boats and gridded out the area in the water. We had to deal with water temperature, wind direction and locating those in the ocean in the dark. We managed to help three people out of the water early on.” Jon learned from speaking Spanish to the migrants that 16 people had been in the boat.

The alert activated more than 100 emergency responders who arrived in Del Mar. Jon coordinated the logistics with all who participated in the search and rescue effort: helicopters, boats, and specialized dive teams, quite a list. On hand in addition to the Del Mar Lifeguard and Fire Departments: the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue dive team; the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dive Team; the Coast Guard Cutter Sockeye crew; Air and Marine boat crew; a Coast Guard Station Response Boat-Medium crew; a Sector San Diego MH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter crew; the Oceanside Police Department; and California Parks Department and teams from other coastal cities.

After 13 people were rounded up, the search continued for the other three migrants. “We covered all bases. No more were found. Later the Border Patrol reported that they located the boat with three people on board south of the Border so all were finally accounted for.”

Jon reports that the Border Patrol’s count is that 300-400 migrants, attempting to land on the coast from Carlsbad south, have been picked up. The Mexican cartels, in control of smuggling desperate migrants, charge each passenger an estimated $10,000-13,000 for the trip. “The Border Patrol took the 13 who landed at Del Mar to local hospitals and then on to be processed and sent home.”



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