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'Miracle' saves woman diver

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

“It’s just a beautiful miracle,” Kathy Kingen said.

Kingen, and her husband Gerry, were part of that miracle on April 23 at Salty’s on Redondo when a group of strangers saved a woman’s life.

The Kingens are the owners of the Puget Sound waterfront restaurant and its two sister eateries, and they were at the brunch on that Sunday with a friend and business partner. While a sunny day, it was also windy, and Kathy Kingen remembers the choppy waves.

While eating, Gerry Kingen started watching two scuba divers. The area is popular for divers. Kathy Kingen believes it’s because the cove near the restaurant protects divers and marine life from the main tidal currents.

Gerry Kingen told his wife he thought the divers were struggling. Both Kingens are experienced scuba divers, and she agreed with his assessment. They went to the restaurant’s deck and called out to the divers, who were about 30 yards out, asking if they needed help. The divers, who later identified themselves as a husband and wife, were also experienced divers, and one gave a signal they were fine.

“’I don’t believe them,’” Kathy said she told her husband.

Sometimes when divers are in a situation like that, they don’t realize they need extra help to get it under control, she said Monday in an interview. While scuba diving looks peaceful, she said, it’s really a lot of work. Divers go into the water with at least 50 pounds of gear –– the tank, counterweights, suit and breathing apparatus.

The Kingens went to the beach to meet the couple when they came in. When the divers, who are in their 50s, were 30 feet from shore, the situation got scary.

“Somebody help me, she’s unconscious,” the man called from the water.

The Kingens and Shay Boden, Salty’s banquet manager, ran into the water to help the man bring his wife to shore.

As they unbuckled her buoyancy compensator vest and get her tank off, the woman was still unconscious.

“He was distraught,” Kathy Kingen said of the husband.

Then scary went to dangerous when the woman turned blue. She had stopped breathing.

The Kingens and Boden began CPR on her. Meanwhile, restaurant patrons, including a doctor and a CPR instructor, saw what was happening and came to help. While Kathy Kingen cleared the woman’s airway, the doctor started chest compressions. Another person held the victim’s head.

After a couple of rounds of breathing and compressing her chest, the woman was revived and was taken by paramedics to St. Francis Hospital, where she apparently fully recovered.

“She got really great assistance really quickly,” Kathy said.

Boden, after helping revive the woman, went back to work. Several people commented on her efforts.

“’Anybody would have done it,’” Boden said she told guests.

For Boden, this was the second time she aided in a water rescue.

Terry Merritt of Auburn drowned May 11, 2005 on the other side of Salty’s. He was with his wife when he signaled he needed to surface. According to fire and rescue officials, Merritt wasn’t there when she surfaced. She found him underwater and brought him to shore. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

After the woman went to the hospital in the April 23 rescue, Kingen went home and pulled out all of her scuba books and read about accident situations to try to determine what happened. As near as she can tell, the woman panicked and then hyperventilated. It’s a situation any diver can get themselves into, Kingen said.

Kingen said the woman’s husband called a few days later to say his wife was doing well and to thank Kingen and the others.

“He was very grateful for all the help,” Kingen said.

And the miracle.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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