State officials honored an Oceanside lifeguard Monday for his exemplary bravery and determination during a tricky ocean rescue last year.
At a ceremony in Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown presented a state Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to David Wilson of the Oceanside Fire Department.
"You were vulnerable, but that didn't stop you,'' Brown told Wilson. "You exercised real courage. That's what we recognize and reward.''
Emergency personnel received a distress call on July 17, 2016, about an accident involving a personal watercraft in the mouth of Oceanside Harbor.
Boating conditions were hazardous that day, with high surf breaking at the entrance of the bay, according to a statement from the governor's office.
Responding from a nearby lifeguard tower along with a colleague, Wilson ran across a rock jetty and saw bystanders waving and pointing to a spot in the water where the surf was pounding against rocks and a capsized watercraft.
Nearby, in an area nicknamed "the Devil's Triangle'' due to its dangerous conditions, the waves were hitting a barely conscious man wedged between two boulders, submerging him with each pass.
As his partner radioed for backup, Wilson crawled down to the victim and worked to free him while positioning himself in front of him to lessen the impact of the waves.
Though Wilson was knocked down repeatedly, suffering cuts and bruises from the rocks, he was able to continue working to rescue the man, at one point diving underwater between the rocks to free the victim's legs.
Additional rescue personnel eventually arrived and helped Wilson and a harbor police officer free the man and load him into a rescue basket.
Due to Wilson's expert and persistent lifesaving actions, the victim survived, Brown said.
"Without his great efforts, knowledge, and skill in the ocean environment, no doubt a life would have been lost,'' Brown said.
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2003 gives the governor the authority to award personnel for extraordinary service. Nominations from public safety agencies are considered by a special review board, which then makes a recommendation to the attorney general.
"The hero we honor today, David Wilson, went far above the call of duty,'' Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. "We thank him and all our public safety officers, whose quiet bravery and grit make our communities safer.''