Corona del Mar Today: High school senior saves drowning man

October 22, 2011|By Amy Senk
  • Newport Beach Fire Engineer Erin Brown high-fives Chloe Ronnenberg during Harbor View Elementary School's third annual Jog-a-Thon on Friday morning.
Newport Beach Fire Engineer Erin Brown high-fives Chloe… (Courtesy AMY SENK,…)

Josh Wills-King was body surfing at Big Corona Beach last weekend when he saw something that made his blood run cold.

"The waves (started) getting pretty big," he said. "The surf was high. And there was a guy flailing about, bobbing up and down. This guy did not look good, and I thought he had been bit by a shark."

Wills-King, 17, a Corona del Mar High School senior, said he was about 200 feet out and the man was another 25 feet past him.

"I was immediately fearful," he said. "This was the worst thing that happened in my life. But I also knew I had to help him."

Wills-King swam to the man and asked if he needed help.

"I kept saying, 'Sir, are you OK?'" Wills-King said. "He was completely unresponsive."

Wills-King quickly realized the man was not a shark victim but was injured with a gash on his head, and Wills-King grabbed him to hold him above the surf.


When he was near the shore, Wills-King said he yelled for help. A few boys nearby at first thought he was joking, but eventually they helped carry the man to the sand, and one of them ran to find a lifeguard to call for help.

The Newport Beach Fire Department responded and transported a patient at 3:29 p.m. to Hoag Hospital from Big Corona, but no other information was available, said Jennifer Schulz, a Newport Beach Fire Department spokeswoman.

The man tried to sit up and drank some water, Wills-King said, but then grew pale and appeared to be sleepy. Wills-King said he has had seven concussions and knew it was important to keep the man awake.

"I don't know what happened," Wills-King said. "We asked him five or six times, and he didn't tell us."

Wills-King said he was calm throughout the rescue.

"I didn't have enough time to think," he said. "I just knew there were only about two other people in the water. I knew I had to go help him. If I didn't, no one else would."

After the ambulance left, a crowd had gathered and people told Wills-King he'd done a great job.

"They said, 'We need more people like you,' and all that jazz," he said.

Then, he said, he and his brother played whiffle ball, and he went swimming again.

"I just went on with my life," he said. "You've got to get back to life."


Harbor View Hold third annual Jog-a-Thon

Harbor View Elementary School students ran laps Friday as if there was money on the line — appropriate as the school marked its third annual Jog-a-Thon fundraiser today.

"It's really fun and awesome," said fourth-grader Jaden German. "It's running and getting exercise."

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