Rams assistant helps save swimmer in distress

Rams special-teams coordinator John Fassel helped save the life of a man drowning in the Pacific Ocean last week by battling a riptide and, with the help of another surfer, pulling the man to safety.

Fassel said he was boogie-boarding in the high tide of the Pacific Ocean alongside Manhattan Beach late in the afternoon on Wednesday, when he and another surfer, Jim Burton, noticed a man caught in a riptide, flailing away.

Fassel and Burton -- who did not know each other before this incident -- swam over to the man, whose eyes were "rolling into the back of his head," according to Fassel. The drowning man -- who did not speak English -- was gasping, splashing, panicking, said Fassel.

Fassel estimated the man was 20-30 seconds from going under, and drowning.

"He was totally unresponsive when we got to him," Fassel said.

Fassel reached for the man's arms while Burton reached for the man's waist, and together they struggled to hoist him onto a surfboard until Manhattan Beach lifeguards arrived on the scene. The team then paddled the man to shore, where a team of paramedics were also waiting to help.

In addition to the help provided by the lifeguards, Manhattan Beach Fire Department paramedics administered intravenous fluids, EKG exams and medication to stabilize the man, according to Manhattan Beach acting battalion chief Derek Edmonds. The paramedics determined the man required further evaluation and rushed him to a local hospital, where he was in stable condition, according to Edmonds.

Fassel and Burton never got the man's name, and still do not know it. But they know that, on the very last day of Fassel's California vacation before he returned to St. Louis for Rams training camp, they made a difference.

"Me and Jim said he was less than 30 seconds away from not being able to hang in there," Fassel said. "But it all happened so fast. Major kudos to Burton, the Manhattan Beach lifeguards and fire department paramedics. It was seriously amazing how fast they got on the scene. When we got him in, and he had the help he needed, we were high-fiving and celebrating."