Freshman Paige Morales Saves Drowning Stranger


Photo courtesy of Paige Morales

Two flapping flippers in the ocean are spotted, clearly in distress. A figure in the waves ditched her buoyancy control system and struggled to stay above the water. Unable to release herself from the heavy oxygen tanks, the diver started to submerge into the water with the weight slowly dragging her down. Freshman Paige Morales was standing on deck of a boat when she heard her name being yelled, her partner pointed out the struggling figure. Morales acted quickly and dived into the sharp water. She swam as fast as she possibly could to the drowning scuba diver while inflating her own life vest and following procedures that she had been taught. Staying calm and collected, Morales helped the diver stay above water and delivered her to safety after several minutes, saving the diver’s life.

Freshman Paige Morales was put to the test in a life or death situation, while out on a scuba diving voyage. She was aware that she and her diving partner were the only people above the surface, and if she did not act quickly the struggling diver would surely drown. She assessed the situation and utilized her training from a stress and rescue class. Knowing exactly what to do, she helped the diver release her buoyancy control system, and inserted a snorkel into the diver’s mouth which enabled them to breathe. She then held her up above the water until further assistance arrived.

“I just did it,” Morales said. “I felt like I’d taken enough prior classes, like CPR classes and rescue classes, to know what to do in that situation. So I was just collected, I was like, ‘okay I need to do this’.”

Morales aspires to become a marine biologist and has decided to get an early start in pursuing her passion. Last summer, she had an internship at the Aquarium of the Pacific which inspired her to work towards her scuba certification. Morales was informed that the aquarium needed divers to work in the tanks. She decided that she wanted to earn her certification in order to help in the aquariums and began scuba diving in April this year. There are several difficult training procedures that one must follow, but for Morales they were all just stepping stones toward her ultimate dream of working in the ocean.

“I’ve just always loved the ocean,” Morales said. “I remember I was two years old and I just fell in love with the ocean, like Marine Biology. Ever since then I just kind of wanted to do it.”

When explaining her undying fascination with the ocean, she expresses how surreal it is to be close with all the diverse sea creatures, and learn how they interact with each other. Scuba diving enables her to chase after her aspirations of being a marine biologist. Morales understands that there are risks but she knows with the proper training and precautions that she can succeed. She is certain this recent diving experience will have a lasting impact on her.

“It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget,” Morales said. “It’s something that I will always have with me.”

Saving that diver’s life is sure to change her own forever. With determination, quick thinking, and curiosity, Morales has a bright future ahead of her.