Firefighter/Harbor Patrol Officer David Poirier Jr. (Redondo Beach Fire Department, California) is being honored for single-handedly rescuing three injured people from dangerous surf.
On the evening of February 24, 2016, the Redondo Beach Fire Department received reports of people crying out for help near the breakwater wall at the King Harbor. A Harbor Patrol boat staffed by Firefighter/Harbor Patrol Officer David Poirier Jr. and a boat captain responded to the call. The tide was high and a moderate swell was causing waves to top the breakwater wall every four to six minutes.
Officer Poirier and the captain found four victims in the water. They had been fishing on the west side of the wall when a wave swept them over the top and down the east side, a 15-foot fall from the top of the wall to the surface of the water. One of the victims was floating face down and presumed dead, and the remaining three were suffering from serious injuries as a result of their fall down the rocky wall. They had been in the water for at least 20 minutes and were also showing signs of shock and hypothermia.
The crew quickly decided on a plan, with Officer Poirier entering the water to assist the injured victims while the captain went for additional help. When the captain returned to the scene, he saw large waves wash Officer Poirier and the three surviving victims off the rocks and back into the deep water, submerging all four.
Officer Poirier resurfaced, holding onto two female victims. The third survivor, a male, managed to get back to the rocks with some assistance. Officer Poirier got the two women and the deceased victim into the rescue boat, then returned to the rocks to assist the remaining survivor. Additional waves were topping the wall, pounding Officer Poirier and the victim, but Officer Poirier managed to get the man to safety.
Night rescues in large surf conditions are highly risky even when many rescue personnel are available to perform the tasks. In this situation, three people were saved as a result of the courage, superior conditioning and swim rescue skills of Officer Poirier. Had Officer Poirier not been in the water with the victims, each of them would likely have perished.