Two Scottsdale teens join the throngs of highlighted heroes who risk their lives to save others like any public service worker, medical personnel and those considered frontline employees.
Aspiring firemen, Zachary Haugen, 16, and his best friend since third grade, Jake Watson, 15, recently showed their heroism by jeopardizing their lives to save two people from drowning when they jumped off a cliff into an ocean to save a woman, who is a family friend, and a young lady in sixth grade during a July 4th weekend vacation in San Diego.
Describing the event as surreal and noting that they were “at the right place at the right time,” the young gentlemen recounted their story when they were interviewed by local TV stations in San Diego. They spoke about how they rescued the older and younger female who they noticed drowning at Sunset Cliffs.
They became online sensations from recounting their experience, detailing how the girl climbed on top of the lady’s head to breathe, before they dove over a cliff and confronted a high surf that threatened their lives.
Documented on a YouTube video, posted July 8 here , a two-minute San Diego TV news footage has amassed nearly 2,000 views towards the end of the month.
Showcasing Mr. Haugen, who happens to be a licensed City of Phoenix lifeguard, and Mr. Watson, an avid fisherman and swimmer who enjoys hanging out with friends, they described how they went exploring when they noticed the two people in distress and immediately came to their rescue before emergency crews arrived.
“I just knew they were in trouble and needed help and next thing I knew I was in the water helping them. I always imagined that if anybody was ever in trouble and needed help I would help them,” said Mr. Haugen, a Chaparral High School junior via email.
Mr. Haugen encouraged fellow youths to never be a by-stander.
“I did not want to sit there and see them get hurt,” said Mr. Watson, a junior at Desert Mountain High School, who wants to be a military firefighter or veterinarian.
He and Mr. Haugen noted that they would help save someone’s life again at a moment’s notice. In addition to saving the lives of others, they are making the most of what was described as a very “different” summer.
Mr. Haugen is taking summer school for the first time, job hunting plus spending time with his friends fishing, camping and hiking, he noted.
“I am looking forward to going back to school,” stated Mr. Haugen, an aspiring wild land firefighter.
“As of now, I will start school online then hopefully transition back to on campus.”
“Yes! I want to go back to regular school,” Mr. Watson added.
While Alexia Haugen was impressed with her son’s recent heroic acts, she was relieved that he and his friend were also safe after putting their lives on the line for others at Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach.
“I felt very proud of Zachary and in awe for what he did for those two girls. He called me and told me what happened about an hour after the rescue. The next morning I texted him first thing and told him I could not believe what he did the day before.
His selflessness, bravery and courage to jump off a cliff into the ocean to help two people drowning is remarkable. I know Zachary thought nothing of what he did and that it was no big deal, believe me it was a big deal to the mother that was watching her daughter and friend,” said Mrs. Haugen, a dental assistant.
She added that she could not have imagined the feelings of helplessness experienced until her son jumped in and “put himself in harms way to help someone else,” and that not many people would do that.
“He changed peoples’ lives that day. To say I’m proud is an understatement. God works in mysterious ways, there was a reason that Zachary and Jake were there that day at that time. I also sent Jake a text the same morning telling him how grateful I was to him for jumping in to help his friend. That took a lot of courage on Jake’s part to help his friend and the lives of the two girls.”
Although not surprised by her son’s actions, she noted that “even though Zachary is a strong swimmer when you’re against mother nature in the ocean it does not matter how strong of a swimmer you are --- you are in danger.
“It did scare me especially when I saw how rough the ocean was during the rescue,” the mother said, adding that Zachary has two older brothers and a younger sister.
“Their heroism is a terrific story,” Deanne Poulos, Mr. Haugen’s godmother and his mother’s first cousin, said to the Independent.
“When I heard about my godson’s heroism, I felt goosebumps and a lump in my throat. The boy I used to drive to swim practice has become a brave young man. Only after-the-fact did it occur to me he might have been harmed. But, a split-second decision to help someone else shows sturdy character. I am so very proud of him.”