Standup paddleboarders rescue near-drowning victim
By Natalie Leung
Two standup paddle (SUP) surfers rescued a man who had suffered an allergic attack while snorkeling off La Jolla Shores Sunday afternoon.
Todd Wirths, one of the two SUP surfers who made the rescue, noticed a snorkeler in distress.
“I heard someone say ‘Hey, a little help here’ and so we paddled towards two people out snorkeling,” the La Jolla resident said. “A man was snorkeling with his wife -- he said he had trouble with his gear and had lost his contact lenses.”
Wirths, an environmental geologist, was out paddling with his buddy, Matthew Porreca, when the incident happened early Sunday afternoon.
He pulled the snorkeler, Chris Hutcherson of El Monte, out of the water and onto his paddleboard and attempted to paddle him in.
Hutcherson said later, “I was totally disoriented and could not see which direction the shore was. I kept swallowing water and was also vomiting due to what was later diagnosed as an allergic reaction to penicillin.”
The weight of two bodies was too much for the board and kept Wirths from paddling forward with any speed. Making a quick decision, Wirths decided to paddle in to notify the lifeguards while Hutcherson clung to Porreca’s board.
“Thankfully my wife, Izzy Tihanyi, who owns (Surf Diva) surf school, could tell something was wrong and came running to me as I approached the beach,” Wirths said, adding that he told her to notify the lifeguard while he paddled back out to help Hutcherson to shore. “The lifeguards rushed out on a Jet Ski a few minutes later and took over from there.”
After thanking Wirths and Porreca, the Hutchersons and the SUP surfers parted ways. Minutes later, Hutcherson collapsed on the beach and was driven to the Emergency Room by his wife.
Early Monday morning, Wirths received a phone call from Hutcherson thanking him for the rescue. He had just been discharged from the hospital, after suffering a severe allergic attack shortly after the incident yesterday.
Hutcherson and his wife were later informed by doctors that he had suffered a mild seizure due to the allergic reaction, but thanks to Wirths and Porreca, Hutcherson, husband and father of two teenage daughters, was saved from drowning.