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When a boat loaded with Mexican migrants sank, Navy men dived into the sea to save them

Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Foy and the other man took six people, both conscious and unconscious, to the debris, where they could cling for life until they could be rescued. The boat's passengers didn't have flotation devices, Foy said.

The spotter directed Foy to an unconscious woman about 75 yards away. When he reached her, he encircled her chest with one arm in a cross chest carry, intended for rescues through heavy surf.

Soon after, a lifeguard boat arrived to assist. Foy helped do CPR on the rescue boat all the way back into the San Diego port. The 45-minutes Foy was in the water "felt like an eternity," he said.

Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero, a 28-year veteran, arrived at a scene unlike he's ever seen before. The boat had completely broken apart, leaving only a debris field. Most of the passengers were able to swim to the shoreline, but Foy had helped several people floundering in the water, some facedown or getting ripped out by the current.

A lifeguard was sent immediately from land to make rescues in the water and another to do medical triage on the beach. Two personal watercraft and two rescue boats also arrived within minutes.

"I'm surprised there weren't more casualties, to tell you the truth," said Romero, with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. If the boat had capsized 20 to 30 yards west in deeper water, Romero said, it could have been much worse.

 

"If it was in deeper water, I think the numbers would have gone up for loss of life," he said.

Romero commended the rescue effort of the two men, including Foy.

"This guy [Foy] jumped in and was assisting people immediately, he swam out and helped save someone," Romero said. "He was a huge help."

Video footage from the scene showed people jumping off the side of the boat as waves crashed into it. The boat bounced back and forth and, with each swell, disintegrated further, leaving people bobbing in the ocean. Orange lifeguard jackets washed up on shore.

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