Kevin Cody

Hermosa Beach surfer rescued after breaking neck in large Manhattan Beach swell

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Large, closely spaced swells like these, photographed Saturday morning in Manhattan Beach, led surfer Bill Klauer to suffer a serious accident Saturday morning. Photograph by Kevin Cody

by Kevin Cody

Bill Klauer, 34, of Hermosa Beach, was floating face down in the water Saturday morning at Second Street in Manhattan Beach when he was rescued by three, fellow First Street regulars.

One of the rescuers, Scott Whitehead, 49, of Manhattan Beach, said he was surfing just north of Klauer, when he heard Klauer yell for help. Sean Whorley, a student at the  El Camino College Firefighter Academy also heard Klauer call for help. By the time Whitehead, Whorley and a friend of Whorley’s visiting from Northern California, reached Klauer, he was face down and motionless, about 25 yards from shore, Whitehead said.

Rupert Nuttall-Smith, 47, of Hermosa Beach, said he cut his surf session short that morning  because the low tide was causing that day’s powerful WNW swell to break on a dangerously shallow sandbar. The previous morning, he said, while surfing the same swell in Newport Beach, a wave slammed him to the bottom on his back.

As Nuttall-Smith was walking up the beach, he saw Kevin Komic, another First Street regular  who was checking the surf, suddenly point to the water. When Nuttall-Smith looked in the direction Komic was pointing, he saw Whitehead, Whorley and the visiting friend frantically paddling toward Klauer. Nuttall-Smith ran back into the water while Komic dialed 911.

Whitehead, Whorley and his friend rolled Klauer face up and Whitehead undid the Klauer’s board leash. Then the three surfers began moving Klauer toward shore. When Nuttall-Smith reached them, he cradled Klauer’s head. The four rescuers were concerned, as would later be confirmed, that Klauer had broken his neck..

After the surfers floated Klauer ashore at Third Street, Whorley lay down between the water and Klauer to protect him from being jostled by the whitewater. While slipping in and out of consciousness, Klauer told Whitehead he fell on a large wave and hit his head and shoulder on the bottom. He asked for someone to call his wife. The couple live just two blocks up from the beach. Klauer’s wife and brother arrived just moments after the Lifeguards arrived

When the Lifeguards arrived, they slid Klauer on a spine board and drove him in a Lifeguard truck off the beach to a waiting Manhattan Beach Firefighters paramedic truck, which transported him to Harbor UCLA Trauma Center. On Monday, a spokesperson for the medical center said Klauer was in stable condition. ER

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