Woman who found unconscious surfer at Ocean Beach: I did what I thought was right
Editor’s Note: Often, journalistic coverage of tragic events consists of little more than cold facts, a quick blip of sirens and flashing lights. But it’s important to remember that these events have significant and long-lasting impacts — on their victims, and the victims’ friends and family, and also on witnesses and people who try to help. These stories can be difficult to read or hear, but they’re an important part of the full story behind every such tragedy. On Wednesday Jonathan Luhn, a surfing instructor from San Jose, died in a surfing incident at Ocean Beach. The official cause of his death has not been determined. Luhn’s friends remembered him as a spiritual, giving man who surfed regularly. The Ocean Beach Bulletin’s Mark Lukach talked with Dawn Williams, who found Luhn in the water and pulled him onto the beach, about what happened that day. — Tom Prete
Ocean Beach Bulletin: How are you doing?
I’m OK. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster.
OBB: Can you tell me what happened on Wednesday?
It was around 1 p.m., and I was at the beach. I used to live on La Playa years ago with my husband, but moved to the East Bay. I come back to the city to see the same dentist that I’ve been seeing for a while, so I was in the city. And whenever I come to the city, I go to the beach with my dog. I am always drawn to the beach. It feels like coming home.
I was coming back from Fulton with my English bull terrier, and was throwing the ball to my dog around Balboa Street, and saw something flailing in the water. It took me a second to realize that it was a person. I rushed out there to try and help. He was on his back and the waves kept hitting him.
OBB: How far out did you go?
About 80 feet. I touched him and he was very cold. I checked for vitals while I pulled him into shore, and could not find them.
OBB: Are you CPR certified?
No, not currently, but I was a lifeguard for many years, and half my family works in the medical field. I know how to check for vitals, and the “30-2″ of CPR. By the time I got to him, I think he was already gone. I saw no injuries, no signs of bleeding.
OBB: What happened when you got him to the beach?
I looked around for someone to call for help. There was not a lot of people on the beach, and the nearest lady was about 100 yards away. I screamed to her to call 9-1-1, and went back to try and help. Another guy showed up, and we moved him up the beach.
OBB: Did you administer CPR?
No, just as we got him up the beach the lifeguard truck showed up, and they took over. They did CPR for about five minutes until the ambulance showed up, and then they tried again for another 15 minutes before taking him away.
OBB: What were you doing?
Just standing there, in shock.
OBB: Did anyone talk to you?
Yeah, the lifeguards were thanking me for helping out, but then they all just left and I had to drive back to the East Bay by myself. It was a terrible drive.
OBB: Did you see his surfboard?
Yes, I removed the leash from his ankle.
OBB: Why did you go out into the water?
I did what I thought was right. It felt right.
OBB: There are a lot of people online thanking you for what you did. How does that feel?
It feels nice. You know, I used to ride on a paramedic team, this was years ago, and about two weeks ago, my husband was telling me I should get back into it. After this, I want to do it even more.
OBB: Have you heard of drownings at Ocean Beach before?
Yeah, plenty. I used to live out here, remember. I heard about them a lot.
Anything else you want to say?
Yeah, I want to say I’m real sorry to his family and the people that will miss him. I really feel for them.