Hero and ‘Happy’: Jr. Lifeguards Honored

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The City Council honored Newport Beach residents Alex Davis, 12, and Stephen McMillen, 9, with special Junior Lifeguard commendations Tuesday.

Davis is a 6th grader at Newport Beach Elementary School and McMillen is a 4th grader at Mariner’s Christian Elementary.

Alex Davis rescued a 6-year-old friend from heavy surf near the Wedge last summer.

Alex’s honor cites his bravery and heroism. Stephen’s, his overall excellence and inspiration.

Davis earned his honor last summer when he came to the rescue of one of his younger friends while the two boys and others were enjoying what was an otherwise typical day at the beach.

On Aug. 16 around 3 p.m., Alex was skim-boarding with a group of friends at the beach near M Street on the Balboa Peninsula, not too far from the world-famous and always dangerous Wedge. Alex made a split-second decision that most likely saved his friend Chad Wadsworth’s life, as there were no city lifeguards nearby on duty and the closest lifeguard tower was nearly two blocks away.

Six-year old Chad, of Newport Beach, was being pulled out to sea after a large set of waves rolled in and caught the young boy by surprise as he stood at the waiter’s edge.  Next thing the young Wadsworth knew he was in the “impact zone” in heavy surf up to 6 feet, a place even a adult would not want to be.

According to Newport Beach Lifeguard Bret Jacobson, who later reported Davis’ life-saving actions that day to the California Lifesaving Association, the waves were  “four to six feet, but very inconsistent” and “the beach is very steep, which results in a shore break with significant back wash” and a “6-year old child was pulled out in the backwash and became stuck in the impact zone.”

Alex spoke to the Independent last night and recounted what happened next. He said Chad was “being sucked out by a rip current” when he saw him in need of his help.

Davis, who was, at the time was just about to finish his third year in Newport’s Junior Lifeguard program, says he didn’t really think about his actions at the time – he just reacted.

When he got to his friend in the water Davis said he told him “ take a deep breath and we’ll pop up between sets.” Davis was finally able to get Chad back up to the beach once the large waves subsided.

He say Chad “was kinda shocked” but otherwise unhurt.

Andrea Davis, Alex’s mom, a longtime Newport Beach resident and 1981 Newport Harbor High grad, was there that day but the steep sand berm drop-off at the water’s edge blocked her view of the water and what unfolded in an instant.

Davis says, “I did see Alex disappear in an instant over the sand berm”  after he had just come up the beach. She she didn’t see what happened as her son went into the water to save his friend, but found out soon after.

Cheryl Rosenberger witnessed the rescue and reported it to the Newport Beach Lifeguards who late sought to honor Alex for his actions.

Davis say’s she is very proud of her son and what he did that day, telling the Independent, “Alex is a good swimmer and plays water polo” and “knows the dangers of the impact zone” very well.

Stephen McMillen impressed everyone with his enthusiasm for the Jr. Lifeguard program.

The Council also honored the city’s Junior Lifeguard of the Year, 9-year-old Stephen McMillen of Newport Beach.  Last summer was Stephen’s first year in the Junior Lifeguard program. He was not only extremely gung-ho in learning the ways of beach water safety and life saving every day, but in an “exclusive interview” with the Independent, Stephen said he was being singled out for honors “because my nickname was Happy” and “I really liked to dance”.

Stephen so impressed his instructors with his enthusiasm for the program, including his dancing abilities, that according to his mom, Laura McMillian, he is the first Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard in recent memory from the “D” category (the youngest, newest kids to the Junior Lifeguard program) to be so honored.


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