The swimmers from Rancho Verde High School had set out to swim from La Jolla Cove to a buoy located half a mile out into the ocean, according to the Press Enterprise.
One female student was pulled out of the water unconscious, and seven or eight students were evaluated for cold exposure.
“A couple of them started to panic which triggered other ones to get a little bit scared and it just snowballed into a mass rescue,” Sgt. Ed Harris with the San Diego Lifeguards told ABC News.
The water was 59 degrees, the surfs up to 4 feet high, and the wind was between 10 to 15 knots.
“We wouldn’t advise a group this big to go in with the conditions we were experiencing,” San Diego Lifeguard Lt. John Sandmeyer told ABC News. “You can be the strongest swimmer in a pool and not be used to chop in your face, not to be used to the cold water when you go from 76-degree pool to 59-degree ocean.”
A spokesperson for the Val Verde Unified School District gave a different perspective on what happened, asserting that most of the swimmers didn’t need to be rescued.
“Most students said they weren’t pulled out,” Chris Wynn told the Press Enterprise. “They said they were asked to get of the water by lifeguards.”
Val Verde has launched an inquiry into the incident to see if safety procedures were being followed.