Two local teenagers became heroes earlier this month after quickly taking action to save two young girls from drowning.
While on vacation in San Diego over the Fourth of July weekend, Jake Watson, 15, of Scottsdale and Zachary Haugen, 16, of Phoenix, jumped off Sunset Cliffs after spotting two girls struggling in the water below them.
“Surreal” and “nerve-wracking” are two words Jake uses to describe the heart-pounding experience.
“I’m glad that the girls are safe, and that Zach and I are OK,” he told the Progress.
Jake and Zachary have been best friends since the third grade.
While exploring Sunset Cliffs, the two looked down and saw a sixth-grade girl and her friend splashing around near the reef.
But Zachary, a licensed lifeguard, knew something was wrong.
One girl was climbing on top of the others’ head, struggling to breathe.
So, Zachary jumped in — followed by Jake shortly after.
“I just knew that I had to do what needed to be done and wasn’t really thinking about anything else,” Jake said of deciding to jump in after his friend.
According to ABC10 in San Diego, the rescue lasted less than five minutes.
“I was thinking, like, ‘Is this really happening right now?’ and ‘What did I get myself into? Just keep pushing, and you’ll be alright,’” explained Jake, a Desert Mountain High School junior.
Jake added that he knew they’d be OK because “God was working through me and that we were meant to be in that place at that time.”
Once the two teens brought the girls ashore – one of which reportedly had a head injury – San Diego lifeguards took over.
“The older one hit her head probably down on the reef and had a pretty serious head injury in the water,” Lt. Andy Lerum with the San Diego Lifeguards told ABC10.
A local photographer, Jim Grant, happened to be in the area capturing photos of the sunset – and the rescue – that evening.
He said that it could’ve been “a tragic event if those two guys didn’t happen to be [there].”
Now, they’re hailed as hometown heroes – which gives Jake what he called a “weird feeling.”
“But I do kinda enjoy the attention,” he admitted.