PORT HUENEME, Calif. (FOX 11) - An 11-year-old girl is in critical condition after being sucked out to sea by a rip current near Hueneme Pier Sunday, according to Ventura County Fire Chief Jeff Shea. Five others tried to save her, but all needed to be rescued.
Chief Shea says the girl and her father were enjoying the surf on the hot day when she was caught in the rip current. Her father tried to save her, but the high surf was too much.
Fisherman saw the two struggling off the south side of the pier, that’s when four others swam out to help.
“I saw some people drowning. It looked like they were swimming strong at first, but they got in a panic and screaming for help basically,” Fisherman Kenny Neal told FOX 11’s Christine O’Donnell.
Neal says he fishes at the pier almost everyday and has never seen the current so bad. He says he was so worried for the girl.
“She was under [the water] for quite a while and it was pretty scary. It looked like there was a guy next to her was struggling pretty bad,” Neal said.
That “guy” was the girl’s father. Veronica Perfino says she was and her husband Israel watched from the pier in horror.
“[Her father] started screaming he needed help, he couldn’t hold the girl up,” Perfino said.
That’s when she watched the others swim out to help, but they also couldn’t take on the high surf. They clung to the pile-ons to keep themselves above water. She says her husband and another fisherman threw a net they use to catch crabs over the railing to help.
“They threw in a net and my husband and another guy pulled a guy out of the water,” Perfino said.
Neal says he also pulled someone from the water.
“I came out to the beach and saw someone grabbing onto a pier pole and I helped him out,” Neal said.
The girl and her father were finally rescued by two firefighters who jumped the 25 feet from the pier to the water in time to pull them on a rescue boat.
“They pulled her into the boat and I don’t know what happened,” Perfino said.
In total, five people were transported to the hospital. As of 11:30 p.m. Saturday the girl was listed in critical condition, the others were listed in fair to moderate condition.