Corona del Mar Today: High school senior saves drowning man

Josh Wills-King was body surfing at Big Corona Beach last weekend when he saw something that made his blood run cold.

"The waves (started) getting pretty big," he said. "The surf was high. And there was a guy flailing about, bobbing up and down. This guy did not look good, and I thought he had been bit by a shark."

Wills-King, 17, a Corona del Mar High School senior, said he was about 200 feet out and the man was another 25 feet past him.

"I was immediately fearful," he said. "This was the worst thing that happened in my life. But I also knew I had to help him."

Wills-King swam to the man and asked if he needed help.

"I kept saying, 'Sir, are you OK?'" Wills-King said. "He was completely unresponsive."

Wills-King quickly realized the man was not a shark victim but was injured with a gash on his head, and Wills-King grabbed him to hold him above the surf.

When he was near the shore, Wills-King said he yelled for help. A few boys nearby at first thought he was joking, but eventually they helped carry the man to the sand, and one of them ran to find a lifeguard to call for help.

The Newport Beach Fire Department responded and transported a patient at 3:29 p.m. to Hoag Hospital from Big Corona, but no other information was available, said Jennifer Schulz, a Newport Beach Fire Department spokeswoman.

The man tried to sit up and drank some water, Wills-King said, but then grew pale and appeared to be sleepy. Wills-King said he has had seven concussions and knew it was important to keep the man awake.

"I don't know what happened," Wills-King said. "We asked him five or six times, and he didn't tell us."

Wills-King said he was calm throughout the rescue.

"I didn't have enough time to think," he said. "I just knew there were only about two other people in the water. I knew I had to go help him. If I didn't, no one else would."

After the ambulance left, a crowd had gathered and people told Wills-King he'd done a great job.

"They said, 'We need more people like you,' and all that jazz," he said.

Then, he said, he and his brother played whiffle ball, and he went swimming again.

"I just went on with my life," he said. "You've got to get back to life."

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Harbor View Hold third annual Jog-a-Thon

Harbor View Elementary School students ran laps Friday as if there was money on the line — appropriate as the school marked its third annual Jog-a-Thon fundraiser today.

"It's really fun and awesome," said fourth-grader Jaden German. "It's running and getting exercise."

Students asked friends and families to sponsor them for each lap they ran, and parent organizers lined up sponsorships. To date, they had raised $24,000 of their $40,000 goal, said co-chairwoman Tracy Allen.

"We have a stack this big with pledges and checks," Allen said. "We haven't begun to look through them all."

Principal Charlene Metoyer said the event empowered students.

"It's so real because the kids are participating in making their school the best place to be," she said. And because each grade ran for 20 minutes, there was no missed work, she added.

Parent volunteers counted laps and cheered on the runners, and firefighters from the Balboa Island station stopped by to run and show support.

"Can I run with you?" Engineer Erin Brown asked as she joined a student.

Gianni Floriani, 2 , who attends preschool at Harbor View, ran with firefighter John Mollica.

"I caught him!" Gianni told his mother, Jordan Floriani.

"This is a great school event," Floriani said.

"We love running," said kindergartner Brock Paz.

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Firefighters rescue man trapped in hole

Newport Beach firefighters rescued a man trapped in a hole in the Harbor Ridge community Thursday afternoon, according to a news release.

Firefighters received a call at 4:24 p.m. of a victim trapped in a hole on Montpellier. The victim had been doing construction on the back patio of a house, where a 2-foot wide by 6-foot hole had been drilled into the ground.

"The construction worker had apparently fallen into the hole and became precariously wedged and unable to extricate himself," the statement said. "The patient was able to call 911 and alert firefighters to his location."

Firefighters quickly extricated the patient from the hole, and paramedics treated him, the statement said. "The patient appeared to be in good condition, but was transported to Mission Hospital for a thorough evaluation," the statement said.

Fire units, including specialized Urban Search and Rescue units, from Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana responded to the scene.

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L.A. women arrested for Fashion Island burglary

Two Los Angeles women were arrested Tuesday afternoon after police received a call of a possible commercial burglary in progress at Fashion Island.

The burglary occurred about 3:30 p.m. at a shop that has had several burglaries and thefts recently, said Kathy Lowe, a Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman.

"Officers quickly arrived and detained two females who were attempting to leave the area in a vehicle," she said.

Officers found stolen merchandise from a different store in Fashion Island in the vehicle, and both women were then arrested on suspicion of commercial burglary.

The loss from the Bath and Body Works shop was $553, Lowe said. The women, age 21 and 27, both had bail set at $20,000, according to arrest reports.

Another commercial burglary was reported at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at Urban Outfitters, according to a police report. That incident resulted in a loss of $239, but the items were recovered, the report states.

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Planning Commission reverses Ocean Boulevard lot merger

In a 6-1 vote Thursday, the Newport Beach Planning Commission overturned a zoning administrator's decision to merge two Ocean Boulevard lots after a 90-minute hearing.

"The impact here is significant," said Commissioner Michael Toerge. "It's not even a close call. It doesn't serve the neighborhood at all."

Commissioner Bradley Hillgren agreed.

"It's completely inconsistent with what was intended there," he said. "I could not support this at all."

The city's zoning administrator last month approved the merger of two lots at 2808 and 2812 Ocean Blvd. But neighbors appealed that decision, saying it would lead to the construction of a home that would violate a 1951 agreement that limits to one story the height of three Ocean Boulevard lots.

Two homeowners who are part of the agreement live on Ocean Lane, and they testified that their views would be obliterated.

"I feel as if I've aged unspeakably in the past six months," said Joan Campbell. "All I ask is to keep my view. I don't have that many years left. I'm almost 85."

"I wake up at night and I can't sleep," said Alberta Silva. "I worry about our lives and possibly our health."

Newport Beach staff has said that the city does not enforce private agreements among homeowners. The agreement in question dates back to 1951 and limits three Ocean Boulevard homes to one story in exchange for an easement from two rear Ocean Lane homes that give garage access.

The owner of the two lots, John Guida, attended the hearing. When the commissioners asked if he wanted to speak, he agreed.

"We're just trying to build to code," he said. "We're trying to work the best we can to resolve it."

Guida's lawyer, real estate agent, architect and builder also spoke on his behalf. They conceded that plans for the merged lots could reach as high as 29 feet, although the existing homes are 8 feet in height.

After the hearing, Guida declined to comment. He has 10 days to appeal the Planning Commission decision.

Cliff Jones, who filed the appeal, said after the hearing that he knew the battle wasn't over, but that he was pleased with the commissioner's decision.

"It's nice to see right is right and it's upheld," he said. "He was trying to push something through, and the commissioners didn't buy it."

Commissioner Kory Kramer was the lone dissenting vote.

amy@coronadelmartoday.com

Twitter: @coronadelmartdy

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