2 Arizona Teens Recognized for July 2020 Rescue at Sunset Cliffs

by on March 30, 2022 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

San Diego’s Fox5 reported yesterday that two Arizona teenagers are getting national recognition for a dramatic July 3, 2020 rescue that took place at Sunset Cliffs. A young woman and a 11-year old girl were saved by Zachary Johnson Haugen and Jake Vageli Watson of Scottsdale.

Here’s their report:

According to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Zachary Johnson Haugen and Jake Vageli Watson of Scottsdale, Arizona saved the lives of 18-year-old Thanya Huerta and an 11-year-old girl who had been swept into the Pacific Ocean from a cove at Sunset Cliffs.

Haugen, a member of his high school swim team, jumped into the water from a cliff and swam to the pair, pulling them in from the five-foot waves out at sea. After a large wave separated the teenager from the two girls, Haugen called out to Watson, who jumped into the water, placed the young girl on his back, and led Huerta to a ledge, where he held onto her until lifeguards were able to arrive and assist in the rescue.

Watson and Haugen then helped the lifeguards complete the rescue and safely evacuate the water.

The teenagers will each receive the Carnegie Medal, which is awarded to individuals in the United States and Canada who exemplify bravery by entering “extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.”

Haugen and Watson will both receive a financial grant thanking them for their actions.

Here’s the OB Rag’s original report on the heroic incident:

Teens Made Dramatic Rescue of Two Girls Off Sunset Cliffs

A week ago, two teens made a dramatic rescue of two young girls at Sunset Cliffs. It was Friday evening July 3 when two girls, perhaps aged 12 or 13, were standing close to the ocean, when a large set came in and just simply swept them off their feet and into the choppy water.

“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 ABC10News.

The incident was witnessed by famed OB photographer Jim Grant said. “Two young girls … They looked to be about 12 or 13,” Grant said. “They were down at this point, and a large set came in and swept them off their feet.”

Before lifeguards could respond, two teenage boys jumped into the water, swam to where the girls were and tried to keep their heads above water. Lifeguards later said that the teens were instrumental in saving the girls’ lives. One of their mothers gave one of the teen rescuers a huge bear hug in gratitude.

“It was big surf,” Grant remembered. “The girls could not swim or couldn’t swim very well, that’s for sure. And it just could’ve been a tragic event if those two guys didn’t happen to be here.” Grant got a shot of the dramatic rescue with responders hoisting one of the girls off the bottom of the cliffs.

Jim Grant just seems to be everywhere these days, looking for that great view to capture.




{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

OB man March 31, 2022 at 6:57 am

Wow, heroic for sure! nice,


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