It was a relaxing Sunday afternoon for Crescent City Police Sgt. Erik Apperson, who was strolling on Enderts Beach with his family until he spotted someone in the distance running toward him.
As the person drew nearer, Apperson could see it was an older woman in distress, he said.
“She says her friend needs help,” said Apperson, who was in plainclothes.
The woman said a person in her group had fallen off a rock, hurt her hip and was stuck in the surf with the tide rolling in and they had all left their cell phones in the car, Apperson recalled Monday.
He then ran toward the area the woman had indicated, leaving her behind.
“That was a long quarter-mile in the sand,” said Apperson of the run. “I am not David Hasselhoff.”
When he arrived, two male companions with water up to their waists were struggling to get the woman out of the water.
“There was a guy on either side of her and they had these sticks poking around to find footing,” said Apperson. “They were struggling to find balance.”
The group was about 50 feet out in the water on rocky terrain, Apperson said.
“They were in a rough spot in the water right near a rock bluff,” said Apperson. “My concern was if I left her there with the tide going in then she was going to die and these guys are going to have to watch that happen”
So he took action.
“I didn’t want to startle her, so the first thing I did was state I was a police officer,” said Apperson.
He told the two older men to get out of the water and then lifted the woman over his shoulder, carrying her out of the surf and toeing rocks for stability as waves broke against him.
“It was definitely a desperate situation,” said Apperson. “A lot of times with an injury you don’t want to move them, but I had to get her out of there. I had no choice.”
After checking a tide chart earlier with the intention of taking his kids to visit the tide pools, he knew high tide was in 45 minutes.
“It just had to happen now,” said Apperson.
Exhausted, he was able to get the woman to a log in the sand, only to move her again as the water kept rising.
The Del Norte Search and Rescue team arrived shortly after and assisted in carrying Gail Eierweiss, 63, of Richmond, to a waiting ambulance that transported her to Sutter Coast Hospital, where she was treated and later released.
“You can just about say that boy’s a life saver,” said Bill Wortell an SAR training officer. “They’re lucky people.”
Apperson said he also felt lucky that he was there.
“In retrospect, it’s just sort of interesting that I haven’t been on that stretch of beach since high school,” said Apperson.
The family outing may have been interrupted, but Apperson said his children didn’t feel short-changed.
“They got a pretty cool story out of it,” he said.