Jennifer Mahin, 17, heard some telling words at her graduation from the California State lifeguard academy in Carlsbad Friday.
“You might save a life today,” she remembers an instructor saying.
At about 8:30 that night a group her friends and family walked on Oceanside’s north jetty near the harbor and saw some frantic teenagers asking them to call 911.
Another 17-year-old girl had been thrown into the water by a wave and was kept from getting back out by a rip current, said Oceanside lifeguard Capt. Bill Curtis, who later responded to the call.
A distraught male told the girls he had attempted to save her but was thrown against the rocks and told them to “just leave her,” Stephanie Fabinski, 15, said.
But Mahin reacted immediately.
“She just took off her shirt and jumped in,” Fabinski said.
Within a minute, Mahin reached the victim, witnesses recalled.
The victim wasn’t responding to cues and Mahin was unable to tow her out of the rip current, so she stayed in the water until help arrived.
“I held her head up because I didn’t know if she was breathing,” she said. “She went under, so I just assumed she wasn’t breathing.”
Rescuers arrived and tossed Mahin a rescue device. Mahin was able to clip the victim, she said, and was able to swim out of the water on her own.
The victim was responsive but was taken to a hospital for precautionary measures, Curtis said.
Mahin—a member of the Carlsbad High School water polo team—said she chose to be a California state lifeguard in Carlsbad because she loves the beach and helping people.
She was also excited for her accomplishment.
“It’s the most gratifying thing ever,” she said.
Just as excited were her group of friends—including 15-year-old Malia Magro.
“Jen pulled some serious lifeguard stuff,” she said.