Woman Meets Hero Rescuers 35 Years After They Saved Her Life At Sea

Salena Harshini |Mar 17, 2021

Desireé Rodriguez Campuzano survived the accident after hours in the ocean with only her lifejacket, with the help of two young men.

The little girl had been floating on the cold Pacific water for one night and nearly a day.

Kept afloat by a life jacket after her family’s boat capsized, Desireé Rodriguez Campuzano had to watch each of her family members let of life. She was 9.

Saved at the last moment

Desireé was sleeping in the lower deck when her father yelled, “Get out of the boat. The boat’s sinking!”

Her pregnant mother, then her 5-year-old sister, her uncle, and aunt all perished into the deep water.

Desiree Rodriguez Rescued At Sea
The magical reunion made a lot of headlines all over the world.

Her father also tried to swim for help through the thick and dark fog. But he never came back. Just as she started to give up, the 23-year-old Paul Strasser and Mark Pisano were steering their fishing boat and taking passengers out for the day.

The skipper saw the orange spot bobbing on the water via his binoculars. In just minutes, the officer quickly leaped into the sea and grabbed the little girl’s life jacket. They pulled her back to their boat, and towards life.

They radioed the Coast Guard and transported her to San Pedro. There, medics took her off the boat on a stretcher. It was the last time the girl and the hero rescuers saw one another. Until this year.

The Trio Reunited Because Of A Podcast Series Abou
Desiree Rodriguez Campuzano with Mark Pisano (left) and Paul Strasser (right), who rescued her after her family's boat capsized off Catalina Island in 1986.

She was treated at a hospital for exhaustion and hypothermia. a Coast Guard spokesman said the little girl had “a strong, resilient constitution.”

The accidental reunion

Desireé Campuzano is now 44 years old and is a married mom to a 5-year-old boy. She was brought up by an aunt and uncle.

She recalled making attempts to find the two who rescued her. Desiree even wrote to Oprah Winfrey for help.

However, their reunion happened in the most random way.

Desiree Campuzano
The trio reunited thanks to a podcast series about local fishermen.

Philip Friedman whose travel plans halted due to the pandemic decided to make a podcast series about local fishermen. He interviewed Mark Pisano about the rescue that happened decades before.

A man, Pablo Peña, listened to it and remembered that he worked with a woman whose family had passed away in a boat sinking. The mentioned women had the same name - Desireé Rodriguez.

Immediately, he reached Friedman and the latter contacted Desireé Rodriguez Campuzano. They set up a meeting with Strasser and Pisano. The girl who is now a grown woman posed as a translator.

After 10 minutes, she unveiled that she was the girl they had saved.

Desiree Rodriguez Campuzano
Campuzano is now an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy.

Mark Pisano slapped the table in an instance of recognition. Everyone burst into tears, according to the Los Angeles Times.

She said with a wavering voice, “I’m Desireé.”

Meanwhile, Paul Strasser said, “I feel like she’s sort of our daughter, in a way, because we brought her back to life, even though we never knew each other.”

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