Surf Rescue

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The Ocean Shores Police Department Surf Rescue Team was founded in July, 1989. Prior to this time, the only experienced help available to swimmers was the United States Coast Guard out of Westport. However, the Coast Guard's response time to the beach at Ocean Shores was over half an hour, and the Coast Guard is not equipped for rescues in the surf extremely close to shore. Ocean Shores Police Officers and Firefighters would attempt to help by entering the surf as far as was relatively safe, but this was extremely dangerous and often ineffective. If a person became trapped in a rip current or too far out to sea, there was little anyone could do to help. There were frequent near drownings, and occasionally, lives were lost.

These tragedies convinced the Ocean Shores Police Department that there was a vital need for a team of professionally trained rescuers to be immediately available to save swimmers in the surf. The character and use of the beach at Ocean Shores does not yet make the use of full time lifeguards feasible. This may, however, one day be necessary.

Thus, in July, 1989, Ocean Shores Police Department assembled it's original team of five members. The original members were Lt. Mike Styner, Officers Paul Luck, Jim Davis and Jeff VanGompel, and Ocean Shores Fire Department Paramedic Lee Fundenberger. Professional lifeguard Scott Tye was brought in to train the new rescuers, paid for by a grant from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. Tye, who has over 20 years of experience in cold water rescue, taught the members in the classroom, in Duck Lake in Ocean Shores, then finally in the rough Pacific Surf. In the beginning, the Team was only equipped with dry suits, Peterson Tube floatation devices, and equipment vests.

On the very first day the Team began training in the surf, they were called upon to test their new skills. Two miles from where the Team was training, a 25 year old man was being drawn out to sea by one of the powerful rip currents which are an ever present threat on the Washington coast. The officer on the scene made the first call for the Surf Rescue Team, and got an immediate response. Since the Team was already in their rescue gear and on the beach, they were on the scene and in the water in under two minutes. And in another five minutes, they were helping the completely exhausted, but alive, swimmer into a waiting ambulance. The Surf Rescue Team was a success!

Since its beginnings in 1989, the Team has changed and expanded with new advancements in technology and new members. This is a dangerous business and sadly we have lost two of our own during rescues and training.

Lt. James L. Davis
April 26, 1998

In a tragic but successful rescue effort of a surfer in trouble at the North Jetty, Police Lt. James Davis made the ultimate sacrifice.

Capt. Robert E. McLaughlin
March 22, 2006

Fire Dept Capt. Robert McLaughlin tragically drowned during a surf rescue team training exercise on March 20, 2006.

Our prayers go out to you two heros and your families.
We miss you both. May you rest in peace.
You served at the highest level and you will never be forgotten.

Copyright 2001 - City of Ocean Shores

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