Before Argentinian scuba diver Pablo Avila lost consciousness on surfacing from a shore-dive off California’s Catalina Island, he can hardly have imagined that his life was going to be saved by a group of mermaids. But he knew nothing about his unusual rescue at the time.
Avila had been exploring the Pacific site with old friend Javier Claramunt, with whom he was said to have been diving since the 1970s, and Claramunt’s son Joshua.
Father and son were towing the stricken Avila back to shore at the surface but growing tired. As luck would have it, a group of female freedivers had been practising rescue scenarios for PADI’s Advanced Mermaid course nearby when they realised that a genuine emergency had occurred.
The course was being run by instructor Mermaid Elle of Mermaid Courses, and her group included Elaina Garcia of Catalina Island Mermaids, who could see that Avila was coughing up foam and recognised this as a sign of an air embolism.
“I raced over to lead the rescue and give him rescue breaths because my expertise is scuba, and he was on scuba,” Garcia told Divernet. “So I knew how to help him – how lucky for him!
“We also had a freedive instructor, Chin Burger, helping with the rescue. So this gentlemen had a scuba instructor, a freedive instructor and a mermaid instructor to help him, and Elle and I were both wearing mermaid tails during the rescue.”
The mermaids helped to remove Avila’s dive-gear and towed him back to shore at Casino Point, on the south-east of the island.
The emergency services had been alerted and were waiting to take the diver to the island’s hyperbaric chamber. He underwent several hours of treatment in the facility, where he regained consciousness and was later discharged. Medical staff later credited Garcia and the group with saving Avila’s life.