Governor Brown and Attorney General Becerra Honor Oceanside Fire Department Lifeguard with Medal of Valor


SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. joined Attorney General Xavier Becerra today to present the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to Oceanside Fire Department Lifeguard David Wilson, who went above and beyond the call of duty when responding to a distress call at Oceanside Harbor last July.

“You were vulnerable but that didn’t stop you, you exercised real courage,” said Governor Brown. “That’s what we recognize and reward. That’s what we’re doing today.”

The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2003 gives the Governor the authority to award medals to public safety officers who are recognized by the Attorney General for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty. The Attorney General’s Office receives nominations from public safety agencies. These nominations are reviewed by the Medal of Valor Review Board, which makes a recommendation to the Attorney General.

“The hero we honor today, David Wilson, went far above the call of duty,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We thank him and all our public safety officers whose quiet bravery and grit make our communities safer.”

Below is an account of the incident for which Lifeguard Wilson was awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor today:

Oceanside Fire Department Lifeguard David Wilson

On July 17, 2016, a distress call was received regarding an unmanned personal watercraft in the mouth of the Oceanside Harbor. Boating conditions were hazardous with high surf breaking at the entrance of the harbor and crashing over the rock jetty.

Lifeguard David Wilson and his partner responded to the call from a nearby lifeguard tower on Harbor Beach. Upon arrival, Lifeguard Wilson ran across the rock jetty and observed bystanders waving and pointing to outside of the jetty, where the surf was pounding against the rocks and a capsized watercraft. Oncoming waves struck a barely conscious man wedged between two boulders, submerging him with each pass. Lifeguards refer to this area as the Devil’s Triangle due to its dangerous conditions.

As his partner radioed for backup, Lifeguard Wilson crawled down to the victim and attempted to free him while positioning himself in front of the victim to lessen the impact of the waves. An Oceanside harbor officer arrived on a police boat to assist Lifeguard Wilson. A rescue buoy and lifejacket were put in place to protect the victim’s head. The rescuers faced relentless waves, allowing only 15- to 20-second windows in which to dislodge the victim. Lifeguard Wilson was repeatedly knocked down, sustaining cuts and bruises from the rocks, but was able to maneuver back into position. The harbor officer attempted to pull the victim up by his lifejacket, while Lifeguard Wilson worked to lift him from below. Lifeguard Wilson dove underwater between the rocks to free the victim’s legs, despite the force of the waves.

Additional rescue personnel arrived and assisted Lifeguard Wilson and the harbor officer with freeing the victim’s trapped legs and loading him into a rescue basket for the arduous task of transporting him over the rocks to be airlifted to a local hospital. The victim survived as a result of Lifeguard Wilson’s act of heroism, during which he risked his own personal safety.

Lifeguard Wilson has shown a level of dedication and valor that is highly respected in lifesaving. His commitment to service was such that he denied medical treatment for himself and joined his colleagues in the rescue of 20 other individuals that day. Without his great efforts, knowledge and skill in the ocean environment, no doubt a life would have been lost.

For extraordinary bravery, heroism and courage in the face of imminent and personal life-threatening peril, Lifeguard Wilson’s actions were above and beyond the call of duty and exemplify the highest standards of a California public safety officer.

Photo caption:
1.) Governor Brown and Attorney General Becerra honor Lifeguard Wilson (center.) Photo Credit: Dionne Grubbs, California Department of Justice. For a high-resolution copy of this photo, contact Danella Debel, Office of the Governor at