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Celebrations: Sonoma Coast lifeguard a hero to many 

Posted by | November 29, 2016 | Lifeguards, Open Water Lifeguards

Celebrations: Sonoma Coast lifeguard a hero to manyMICHAEL SHAPIROFOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | November 23, 2016, 12:49PMThis story is part of our special coverage on unsung heroes of Sonoma County. To see more stories, click here.As soon as Brit Horn arrived at Wright’s Beach, he knew the situation was critical.A young Hispanic man appeared to be within seconds of going under, so Horn, a lifeguard peace officer for the California State Parks, dashed into the water without putting on his wet suit.Risking hypothermia or worse in the swirling and grasping currents at Wright’s Beach, Horn was able to pull the man out of the water and saved his life.“It was a group of 20-somethings standing on the berm taking pictures,” Horn said. “They got knocked down and swept into the water.“One got out with a little bit of help. By the time I got down there on to the beach, I was very close by, I saw a young Hispanic man climbing the ladder,” a term for being on the verge of drowning.“He was going to be gone quick. I jumped in without a suit and got him. It was like, holy smokes, this guy’s going underwater,” said Horn, 58.The struggling man was “only 20 or 25 yards off Wright’s Beach. He was in complete panic mode, going down. I felt real lucky and real happy that I made it to him. If I had taken the time to put a wet suit on, he would have been a goner.”Later that day — Nov. 20, 2005 — two other people drowned, a young woman whose body was recovered and a young man who was swept out to sea.“That’s one I will never forget,” Horn said, “because it didn’t end well. But I know that I saved one young man’s life that day.”During more than three decades as a lifeguard, including 12 years on the Sonoma Coast, Horn saved many other lives.During a full moon kayak trip in September 2008, Benita Yu was clinging to her overturned kayak nearly a mile from Jenner’s shore near the mouth of the Russian River. She was “hanging onto her boat, half dazed” when she heard Horn’s voice saying, “You’re going to be OK.”“She was down in the water, completely hypothermic, not able to move anymore,” Horn said. “I know that had I not found her that night, it’s pretty likely she wouldn’t have made it.”Horn got Yu on his surfboard and paddled her to a motorized Coast Guard lifeboat.“He is a hero to me, in every sense,” Yu said shortly after the rescue.But Horn doesn’t take all the credit. “Anytime things happen,” he said, “it’s always a huge team of people from fire departments to CHP to rangers.”He also credited Yu for being prepared. She had a personal flotation device and wore a headlamp, which made it much easier to locate her that night.For those rescues in 2005, Horn won the Red Cross’ Real Heroes award. He retired in 2009 but stays active with the Cazadero Volunteer Fire Department.His father and brother also were “water men,” having worked as lifeguards and surfed the beaches of Southern California where he grew up.On those beaches, Horn never felt like he “might not make it out.” But that changed when he moved to Sonoma County and discovered the tumultuous surf at beaches such as Goat Rock, Portuguese and Schoolhouse.Most Popular Stories Healdsburg dad about daughter’s drowning: ‘Why did I do it?’ G&G Supermarkets closes its doors after 53 years Details scarce in case of missing Northern California mom found beaten on side of road Adult charges reversed in Santa Rosa teens’ gang shooting case Suspect in pot farmer’s killing now considered kidnap victim “I wanted the challenge of the ocean here in Northern California, the heavy stuff,” Horn said.“It’s like the surfers who are surfing Mavericks, pushing themselves into a heavier and heavier environment. It’s like people who ski down super-steep chutes and mountains. It’s so different and so challenging up here.”

Source: Celebrations: Sonoma Coast lifeguard a hero to many | The Press Democrat

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