The search for a 14-year-old boy who was swept out into the ocean at Ocean Beach yesterday around 4 pm was suspended for the night after hours of searching.
A 17-year-old surfer saw the incident and rescued the boy’s father and cousin in time, but was unable to find the son, Marco Cornejo.
San Francisco Fire Department arrived to the scene within five minutes of receiving the report and immediately sent out rescue swimmers and rafts to find the boy. The Coast Guard soon followed with rescue boats and a helicopter.
“I was the first swimmer out there and was up to my chest, in the rip current where they got pulled out,” said a San Francisco Fire Department rescue swimmer. “It was so strong, it was literally pulling my leg out.”
Once it became dark, the search was temporarily suspended until the morning where SFPD, SFFD and the Coast Guard will reconvene to discuss further search efforts.
“We’re challenged because now we’re expected darkness in about 60-90 minutes and at that point we’ll have to make a decision regarding our rescue effort,” said SFFD Chief, Joanne Hayes-White around 6 pm. “Time, right now is the biggest challenge and the conditions of the surf. We’re doing all we can, we’d love to rescue this boy.”
Tony Barbero, the 17-year-old nearby surfer, and son of Fire Department captain, pulled out the cousin and dragged the drowning father to shore.
“The father was just floating in the water,” said Barberos. “I thought he was dead to be honest. I couldn’t see him breathing, he was completely unconscious, his eyes were bulging and his skin was pale.”
The father was pulled out of the water in critical condition with life-threatening injuries, but paramedics were able to stabilize him and send him to a nearby hospital where he’s currently recovering, according to Hayes-White.
“He was out just enjoying the surf and valiantly put his own life at risk to save two people. He was at the right place at the right time,” said Hayes-White.
During the four hours of searching with five rescue boats conducted by multiple agencies, including SFPD, SFFD, National Parks Service, The Coast Guard, the search was suspended until morning.
“The coast guard’s helicopter has the best view. If the boy was floating out there, they would have seen him,” said the rescue swimmer. “So, he’s either under the water or the current moving so fast that he’s going to end up at Pacific or Treasure Island tomorrow or we’re never going to see him again.”
The father was unconscious and not breathing when Barbero pulled him to shore, according to Barbero.
SFFD was able to get the father’s pulse back and transported him to UCSF, according to Fire Chief Marty Ross.