A swim team's trip to San Diego went horribly wrong Tuesday, and lifeguards ended up having to rescue almost two dozen high school students from the water at La Jolla Cove, NBC San Diego reports. The teenagers were in San Diego to compete in a long-distance swim, and 64 of them (plus three coaches) went in the water against the advice of lifeguards, says Sgt. Ed Harris of San Diego Lifeguards, explaining that it was windy at the beach, the waves were two to four feet high, and the water was about 59 degrees. When the group was about half a mile from shore, some swimmers started panicking, which triggered others to panic, and "it just snowballed into a mass rescue," Harris says.
Ultimately, 22 students were pulled out of the water by lifeguards on surfboards, jet skis, and boats, ABC News reports. A 16-year-old girl who had swallowed some water was unconscious and beginning to show signs of hypothermia; she was taken to a local hospital but was expected to be released, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The teens attend Rancho Verde High School, about 88 miles north of La Jolla; a rep from the school district says they were briefed on ocean swimming by a lifeguard before entering the water, but the lifeguards say their advice was to delay the swim. "You can be the strongest swimmer in a pool and not be used to chop in your face, not to be used to the cold water when you go from 76-degree pool to 59-degree ocean," a San Diego lifeguard explains.