Boaters Pull 7 Women From Ocean : Diving Trip Turns Into Rescue Mission

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Times Staff Writer

What began as a Santa Catalina Island scuba diving trip ended as an early morning ocean rescue for a Huntington Beach family, who helped drag seven wet, shivering women from the frigid waters outside Newport Harbor Sunday, police said.

George and Suzanne Stokes had just sailed their 48-foot ketch Adventures out of the harbor about 1:45 a.m. when they heard “hysterical” screams coming from the waves in front of them, said George, 40.

“As we got closer, I realized it was an overturned boat with seven people sitting on the keel, which was still about a foot above the water,” George said. “We came alongside and they were screaming.”


As Suzanne called the Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol, Tod Stokes, 14, and his friend Rob Wolterbeek, 17, launched the Adventure’s dinghy. When the dinghy was ready, George jumped aboard and rowed through the choppy water to the women.

“I got to the boat, and they were pretty hysterical,” George Stokes said. “I told them they’d have to get off one at a time or they’d capsize the dinghy. I got three of the young ladies into the dinghy and told the other four to wait.”

Harbor Patrol Arrives

After rowing the first three women to the Adventures, he returned to the capsized boat. By then, two Harbor Patrol rescue boats had arrived, and Stokes ferried the remaining women to the care of the Sheriff’s Department.

“The females were unharmed and were taken to the Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol station in Newport Beach, where they were released to relatives,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Randy Blair.

Had the Stokes not sailed by when they did, the women, who were in the water about 20 minutes after their 17-foot power boat was capsized by waves, “probably wouldn’t have lasted an hour,” Blair said.

“The water temperature was 57 degrees, the air temperature was 50, and you have a hypothermia problem when you’re in the water that long,” he said. “I understand it was pretty rough out there.”


Blair said the Stokes and sheriff’s deputies together rescued Hallie Dunne, 18, Temple City; Debra Greenbaum, 18, Los Angeles; Mary Taredes, 19, San Marino; Karen Cooper, 18, Irvine; Heather Laughmer, 18, San Marino; Lucia Matioli, 19, San Marino, and Jennifer Joy, 19, Pasadena.

Boat Towed In

The boat, which was owned by the stepfather of one of the women, Blair said, was towed back to the harbor.

Blair said he did not know why the seven women were out so late in such bad weather. Cooper is a student at UC Irvine, and the remaining women attend Pasadena College.

Instead of diving off of Santa Catalina Island, the Stokeses satisfied themselves with a local jaunt off Corona del Mar. But they did not mind the change of plans. After all, Stokes said, the rescue gave the two boys on the Adventures a chance to test skills they had learned as members of Sea Scouts.

“And it was lucky we came along when we did,” Stokes said. “I don’t think they would have lasted the night. Just after we got them, the winds kicked up, and it was raining like crazy.”