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City College students credited with rescuing young girl from harbor

Two Santa Barbara City College students are being acknowledged as heroes for rescuing a young girl from the harbor.

On March 30, Fulton Lankenau, 23, and Baraa Alkassir, 21, were enjoying their last day of Spring Break at Sandspit. They were first identified as the rescuers by The Channels, a city college newspaper. Fire officials said their story is consistent with information gathered at the scene.

Lankenau and Alkassir said the beach was nearly empty, except for a few adults and several children playing and swimming nearby.

All of the sudden, they heard a man calling for help, and both realized immediately something was wrong.

It was windy and the water was choppy and a little girl was struggling to stay afloat in the ocean.

Without hesitation, both students jumped in the water and swam toward the girl.

“We pretty much grabbed both of her arms and pretty much doggy paddled our way back,” Lankenau said.

They brought the girl back to shore, but the rescue wasn’t over.

Another man, 33-year-old Crescencio Ramirez was even further out and stuck in a rip current.

Ramirez had also jumped in to save the girl.

Lankenau went back in the water and with the help of a surfer, pulled Ramirez to shore where Alkassir was waiting.

“We grabbed the guy from the water and started doing CPR and gave him mouth-to-mouth and were trying to help the guy you know,” Alkassir said. “He looked pretty blue and he looked like he needed some help. For a second, I thought I heard him cough and I thought had a pulse on him.”

Harbor Patrol showed up soon after and continued CPR, but Ramirez didn’t survive.

Witnesses said the man’s children and the young girl’s family were watching in horror.

Lankenau tried to comfort them.

“As soon as Harbor Patrol got there, I brought all the kids, tried to bring them around the other side of the rocks to try not to witness the situation. It was pretty traumatic,” Lankenau said.

Both students are modest about their heroics and said they wish they could have done more for Ramirez.

“He was trying to save the young girl and we tried to save him,” Alkassir said. “At least, we did what he wanted and we saved the girl you know.”

Lankenau and Alkassir said the language barrier made it difficult to communicate with the girl’s family after the rescue. But, they understood two words–“Gracias, gracias.”

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