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Schools official rescues 2 at beach

Marlin Sumpter spends his week working to keep 30,000 Modesto students safe.

So it's not surprising Sumpter, the director of child welfare and attendance for Modesto City Schools, helped rescue two people from drowning while on vacation with his wife in Carmel.

Sumpter, 49, of Modesto shattered his left shoulder after jumping into the surf to pull a 5-year-old boy and a young man out of the water.

Sumpter was released from a Monterey hospital Saturday morning, but he went to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto for more treatment, said his daughter, Holly Sumpter.

He could not be reached for comment Saturday.

"He's doing well," said Holly Sumpter, 22. "But he's in a lot of pain."

Sumpter and wife Lorraine were picnicking Wednesday off Monastery Beach near Point Lobos when they saw a group of children accompanied by two adults playing in the water.

Kevin Brady, a state park lifeguard who was at the beach, said the 5-year-old boy was swept into the surf. One of the adults, the boy's camp counselor, went to rescue the boy.

Seeing the two struggle to stay afloat, Sumpter went after them, Brady said.

As he entered the water, Sumpter was slammed by a wave, injuring his shoulder.

"It was kind of a blur after that," Sumpter told The Monterey County Herald. "Somehow, I got to them. That poor kid. I thought he was a goner. He was pretty well dazed, with a blank stare on his face, which was all red."

Sumpter had no flotation device and no experience as a lifeguard. He said he didn't feel pain in his shoulder until he got to shore.

"The adrenaline rush didn't let me feel pain," he said.

Sumpter's wife said she and two men ran into the water and formed a human chain to get everyone out.

"It was terrifying," Lorraine Sumpter said Saturday. "You could see the little boy's body in the water."

Brady said Monastery Beach is notorious for water rescues, which occur about once every two months. It's a popular spot for divers with a steep shore break, he said.

A quarter-mile off shore, Brady said, the water depth increases to about 300 feet.

Many of the experienced divers and swimmers rescued at Monastery Beach suffer broken bones and other injuries from the waves crashing on them.

"If you're in the impact zone, it can knock you unconscious, man," Brady said Saturday afternoon from his station at Point Lobos State Park.

By the time Brady and Carmel Highlands firefighters arrived, everyone was safe and out of the water.

Brady said the Sumpters risked their lives to save others. He said the good Samaritans often are the ones who don't survive.

When told Sumpter was Modesto City Schools director of child welfare and attendance, Brady said, "it's understandable that he would jump in to get this kid out."

Brady said the boy was OK and talkative after the rescue, asking paramedics questions about everything he saw inside the ambulance.

Sumpter, on the other hand, was in excruciating pain. He, the boy and the young man rode in the same ambulance to the hospital, said Lorraine Sumpter, who worked for 23 years as a nurse at Doctors Medical Center.

She said her husband's shoulder was broken in five places at the joint, and he will have to undergo a year of physical therapy to recover.

The rescue has had a traumatic effect on her husband, but she said, "he's very thankful and he's glad they are alive."

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at or 578-2337.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or 578-2394.