Saved by a little luck and clear thinking

Conner Reeves found a fellow surfer face down in the water and swam him toward help.

March 13, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Sixteen-year-old Conner Reeves, a member of the Edison High Surf Team, found a surfer floating face-down in the water and rolled him over to catch a breath so he didn't drown.
Sixteen-year-old Conner Reeves, a member of the Edison… (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

For 16-year-old Conner Reeves, March 2 was just another Saturday morning to go surfing — until he found himself saving a man's life.

"My friend had a competition down at Golden West. I never surf there, so I just went with her just to surf there because I could get a ride down there with her," said Reeves, a sophomore at Edison High School.

After riding a few waves, Reeves ran over an unmanned surfboard that knocked him off his own.

Reeves got back up and tried to look for the other surfer to ask if they and their board were all right, but he couldn't find anyone.

"I started to look closely and from the foam left over from the wave, I could see the back of someone's wetsuit," he said. "So I started yelling, 'Hey!' trying to get his attention. Then I took off the leash of my board and bailed my board out to the side."


The teen swam toward the figure to get a closer look.

The man in the wetsuit was 48-year-old Pete Statti, an independent painting contractor who was catching a few waves before his son's baseball game.

"I flipped him over and when I did that, I didn't know what to expect," Reeves said. "I honestly thought I was going to deal with someone that was dead because he was faced down doing nothing."

As soon as Reeves flipped him over, the Costa Mesa resident who grew up in Huntington Beach, took a deep breath of fresh air and said "I can't move," Reeves said.

"I thought it was all over," Statti said. "I was very lucky and I got little angels looking after me that day."

He said he thinks he was face down in the water for about a minute.

Statti said he pearled while riding a wave, was tossed underwater and hit the top of his head on a sand bar.

Pearling is when the nose the surfboard digs underneath the water, causing the surfer to fall over the front of the board.

After hitting his head, Statti floated to the top and was conscious, but couldn't move any of his extremities, said Michelle Statti, Pete's wife who was at home at time of the accident.

"I was faced down and trying to hold my breath," Pete said. "Then [Reeves] came along, flipped me over and saved me."

Having some experience with the state junior lifeguard program when he was younger, Reeves started thinking of ways to get Statti back to the shore.

"You really don't expect this to happen. I've been surfing for years and I've never seen anything come close to that. And when it just came down to me, I guess I can say all the training with junior lifeguards paid off."

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