12 children rescued after waves overturn sailboats during lesson in California

Twelve children were rescued from waters off Santa Cruz, California, after the sailboats they were in capsized in strong waves Sunday, officials said.

The children were participating in a sailing class near the mouth of Santa Cruz harbor late Sunday afternoon, according to the Santa Cruz Fire Department and other officials. Around 20 people were sent into the water.

There were no serious injuries, and all the children were wearing life jackets, but when a fire department lifeguard first arrived, five of the children were said to be unaccounted for, the fire department said. They were found and rescued within 15 minutes, and one of the five had been previously been rescued by the harbor patrol.

Video recorded by a bystander showed the boats being toppled by a strong wave, NBC Bay Area reported. Surfers helped in the rescues, the fire department said.

“We came right to the rescue right away and grabbed kids who were in most need,” Shane Skelton, one of the rescuers, told the station. He and others came in on the next wave and moved other children away from rocks.

The Santa Cruz Yacht Club, which runs the sailing school, said in a statement that it is investigating what happened and will take steps to prevent another incident like it.

The fire department said that life jackets “certainly played a role in their survival and made for a positive outcome.”

Santa Cruz is a seaside city off of Monterey Bay around 25 miles south of San Jose.

The National Weather Service’s San Francisco Bay area office on Sunday warned of high surf conditions, and more high surf is expected for the Bay Area and the Central Coast Tuesday through Wednesday afternoon.

Image: Phil helselPhil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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