Fatal Rescue Attempts

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Fatal Rescue Attempts

Dominic Quaranta

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On November 24, the Kuljian family decided to spend one morning at Big Lagoon Beach in Humboldt County. Howard Kuljian and his wife Mary took their kids Gregory, 16, and Olivia, 18, as well as their beloved dog, Fran. When the Kuljians arrived, there were ten-foot waves crashing just several feet away from where they stood on the shore. Posted all around the beach’s entrance were signs reading “Sneaker Waves,” which are waves that rush ashore without warning. Soon after their arrival, Gregory began to play a game of fetch with his dog, Fran. After a strong toss of the stick, he realized he had thrown it too close to the water’s edge. In an instant, Fran was engulfed by a wave and sucked out to sea. Overwhelmed with panic, Gregory dove in after him. Like a chain reaction, his father Howard followed, and then his mother, Mary. All three of them drowned and only the dog returned safely to shore. Olivia and Fran were the only survivors of the morning.

Since November of 2012, five people have drowned off of different beaches in Marin and other Bay Area communities by desperately trying to rescue family dogs swept out to sea. All five deaths were caused by the same series of events as the Kuljian incident.

Each victim had been alongside beaches with their pets, when abruptly, their animals were caught in the tide and dragged into the waves. From there, the owners naturally stepped deeper into the water to keep their eyes fixated on their pets.

With only six inches of water needed to topple a full grown adult, even the wading owners were forcefully pulled under. In the heat of the moment, it is understandable that sprinting towards your pet in distress seems like your only option, but many people do not consider a critical fact. There are thirteen breeds of dogs that are swimmers, and more than likely, they are better swimmers than you.

It is a physiological fact that because of a dog’s horizontal body structure and mass, they are built in a way that enables them to ride currents and glide through water efficiently. A perfect example of exceptional swimming in canines is the Labrador Retriever, or “Lab”. Labs are born with webbed paws, the original breeding purpose being to retrieve the nets of fisherman. The Kuljian’s dog was a Border Collie and Labrador Retriever mix. Whether the Kuljian’s were aware of the fact that their dog was a strong swimmer will forever remain a mystery, but when one’s blood is pumping furiously and one’s adrenaline is high, instincts often take over logic and reason.

On New Year’s Day on the Point Reyes National Seashore, a married couple from Richmond, California was enjoying a day by the water. Charles Quaid, 59, and his wife had planned to relax and bring along their dog, to take turns playing fetch. Mrs. Quaid and her dog were standing too close to the crashing waves and just as her husband sprang up to tell her, their dog was already washed out. The two immediately went in to help, but the violent surf proved to challenging for the couple to handle. The woman and dog were eventually recovered to shore without injury, but Mr. Quaid was nowhere to be seen. The catastrophe had taken place at 12:30pm. Charles Quaid’s body was recovered at 4:00pm.

“It was Mill Valley Middle School’s eighth grade Stinson Beach Trip,” sophomore Garrett Miller said. “A few friends and I had been excited to jump in the water as soon as we got there. We started playing this game where you have to dive into the wave before it breaks, and I got a little carried away. The current seemed to suddenly become really strong and before I knew it I was stuck out there. As soon as I realized I was, I panicked. I tried swimming against the current but I became exhausted. At the time, I didn’t realize you have to swim diagonally so I was lucky to gradually make my way back.”

The mistakes in these incidents are the same: underestimating the power of the ocean. In both cases, the waves during the two days were estimated to be within the nine to eleven-foot range. Staying close to the water during unusually high tides is always unwise. In the case of Mr. Quaid’s death, not paying enough attention to the waves was enough to spark the disaster. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning ranks in at the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Every day, about ten people fall victim to drowning and of those ten, two are children ages fourteen and younger. In the cases of the Kuljians and the Quaids, there was little that could have been done to prevent the tragic events from unfolding. It is human instinct to want to save a loved one in distress, but unfortunately, these people did not factor in the possible expense of their own lives. To prevent untimely deaths such as these from occurring in the future, the simple act of holding back a sister, brother, father, or mother could spare someone that has so much more to live for.

On November 24, the Kuljian family decided to spend one morning at Big Lagoon Beach in Humboldt County. Howard Kuljian and his wife Mary took their kids Gregory, 16, and Olivia, 18, as well as their beloved dog, Fran. When the Kuljians arrived, there were ten-foot waves crashing just several feet away from where they stood on the shore. Posted all around the beach’s entrance were signs reading “Sneaker Waves,” which are waves that rush ashore without warning. Soon after their arrival, Gregory began to play a game of fetch with his dog, Fran. After a strong toss of the stick, he realized he had thrown it too close to the water’s edge. In an instant, Fran was engulfed by a wave and sucked out to sea. Overwhelmed with panic, Gregory dove in after him. Like a chain reaction, his father Howard followed, and then his mother, Mary. All three of them drowned and only the dog returned safely to shore. Olivia and Fran were the only survivors of the morning.

Since November of 2012, five people have drowned off of different beaches in Marin and other Bay Area communities by desperately trying to rescue family dogs swept out to sea.  All five deaths were caused by the same series of events as the Kuljian incident.

Each victim had been alongside beaches with their pets, when abruptly, their animals were caught in the tide and dragged into the waves. From there, the owners naturally stepped deeper into the water to keep their eyes fixated on their pets.

With only six inches of water needed to topple a full grown adult, even the wading owners were forcefully pulled under. In the heat of the moment, it is understandable that sprinting towards your pet in distress seems like your only option, but many people do not consider a critical fact. There are thirteen breeds of dogs that are swimmers, and more than likely, they are better swimmers than you.

It is a physiological fact that because of a dog’s horizontal body structure and mass, they are built in a way that enables them to ride currents and glide through water efficiently. A perfect example of exceptional swimming in canines is the Labrador Retriever, or “Lab”. Labs are born with webbed paws, the original breeding purpose being to retrieve the nets of fisherman. The Kuljian’s dog was a Border Collie and Labrador Retriever mix. Whether the Kuljian’s were aware of the fact that their dog was a strong swimmer will forever remain a mystery, but when one’s blood is pumping furiously and one’s adrenaline is high, instincts often take over logic and reason.

On New Year’s Day on the Point Reyes National Seashore, a married couple from Richmond, California was enjoying a day by the water. Charles Quaid, 59, and his wife had planned to relax and bring along their dog, to take turns playing fetch. Mrs. Quaid and her dog were standing too close to the crashing waves and just as her husband sprang up to tell her, their dog was already washed out. The two immediately went in to help, but the violent surf proved to challenging for the couple to handle. The woman and dog were eventually recovered to shore without injury, but Mr. Quaid was nowhere to be seen. The catastrophe had taken place at 12:30pm. Charles Quaid’s body was recovered at 4:00pm.

“It was Mill Valley Middle School’s eighth grade Stinson Beach Trip,” sophomore Garrett Miller said. “A few friends and I had been excited to jump in the water as soon as we got there. We started playing this game where you have to dive into the wave before it breaks, and I got a little carried away. The current seemed to suddenly become really strong and before I knew it I was stuck out there. As soon as I realized I was, I panicked. I tried swimming against the current but I became exhausted. At the time, I didn’t realize you have to swim diagonally so I was lucky to gradually make my way back.”

The mistakes in these incidents are the same: underestimating the power of the ocean. In both cases, the waves during the two days were estimated to be within the nine to eleven-foot range. Staying close to the water during unusually high tides is always unwise. In the case of Mr. Quaid’s death, not paying enough attention to the waves was enough to spark the disaster.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning ranks in at the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Every day, about ten people fall victim to drowning and of those ten, two are children ages fourteen and younger. In the cases of the Kuljians and the Quaids, there was little that could have been done to prevent the tragic events from unfolding.

It is human instinct to want to save a loved one in distress, but unfortunately, these people did not factor in the possible expense of their own lives. To prevent untimely deaths such as these from occurring in the future, the simple act of holding back a sister, brother, father, or mother could spare someone that has so much more to live for.

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