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Dive Instructor Saves Diver's Life With Prompt Action

Crescent Cit, CA diver Juan Santillan is a hero. He is also an experienced diving instructor. Santillian was in the midst of an advanced scuba class in the cool 54-degree water off the Brookings coast. Six students prepared for a deep sea diving lesson over 100 feet deep. Santillian has taught scuba for 12 years without a student being injured.

As part of his diving instructor accreditation Santillian knows rescue diver skills and for the first time in his career he had to put them to the test to save the life of a student.

As the divers took the plunge off the boat Santillan looked at each diver to get an OK symbol. Instead he saw student George Olfson huddled up, unconscious, and motionless under the water. Santillian could see that he was not breathing and took prompt corrective action.

Maintaining his control and thinking clearly, Santillian signed to the rest of the class to stick together. He then swam to Olfson, tore off his face mask. Santillian flipped the diver on to his back to supply rescue breaths.

Becky Bouchard, an elementary school principal took charge of the dive group keeping them together while they waited in the water, watching Santillian and praying for the best outcome. Olfson’s wife was also on the outing and very frightened, Bouchard helping keep her calm as well.

The charter boat came up to the group and Santillian instructed the captain to notify the Coast Guard that they had a serious emergency and to get the rest of the dive group on another boat that is nearby. It took over 30 minutes for the Coast Guard to arrive at the scene and another 20 minutes for the paramedics to arrive in the Brookings harbor. Santillan kept Olfson alive that entire length of time by using his own breathing and a tank of pure oxygen.

"We had to cut his wet suit off because his breathing was so labored. And when a person stops breathing, they become hypoxic — lacking in oxygen — so when you have pure oxygen, it helps to keep the vital organs going," said Santillan. Doctors at the hospital where Olfson was treated believe he had a heart attack and passed out when he entered the water.

Source: The Daily Triplicate

Cliff Etzel
Cliff Etzel
Cliff is the former Freediving editor of He is now a freelance journalist and film-maker.


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