Massive swell capsizes sailboats; 12 children rescued

A massive swell, kicked up by storms out in the Pacific Ocean, capsized several small sailboats ‘like dominoes’ at the mouth of the Santa Cruz Harbour, USA, Sunday afternoon, forcing marine rescue units and local surfers to pull 12 children who were taking part in a sail school from the turbulent, frigid waters.

CBS Local reports that despite a surf warning of waves ranging as high as 25 feet or more along the coast, a Santa Cruz sail school was in session at the mouth of the harbour when the large wave struck.

The “sail school was coming in and the white water just tumbled them and they were just like dominoes flying through the water,” Anna Ritter told CBS Local. She watched the boats capsize and called 911 for help. “And five little kids were saved by some great surfers.”

“With the high swell advisories that we had upstaffed a bit,” says Santa Cruz County fire battalion chief Daniel Kline. “When the call came in, we had two skis in the water already.”

Fortunately, officials had posted additional patrols along the waterfront and had two waterski units in the water because of the large swell so they were able to quickly respond.

Santa Cruz Fire Department says approximately 4 to 5 small sailboats had overturned outside the harbour leaving 20 passengers in the water, including the 12 children.

Crews made a county-wide rescue swimmer response request, which quickly mobilised.

Rescue teams and surfers worked quickly, pulling the children out of the water.

“[There were] no injuries,” says Klein. “Except for some wet, cold kids that needed to be handed back to their parents. This is the biggest swell I have seen in a while.”

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