Newport Beach

Man Sends Sea Turtle Back to Ocean After Rescue

The turtle was trapped in a drainage ditch near John Wayne Airport.

Joe Freeman was taking an afternoon jog when he noticed a green flipper splashing around a drainage ditch in Newport Beach.

He first thought he was hallucinating, but soon discovered that a sea turtle had become trapped miles away from the ocean near the John Wayne Airport.

Freeman, a boat captain, enlisted several people nearby to contact animal rescue services. When no one picked up, he called a friend and took matters into his own hands.

He and his friend, Ryan Griffin, fashioned a lasso out of household supplies and tracked the turtle, which had a large barnacle on its back.

"I was about waist deep, the visibility was a foot and you could barely see the turtle," said Freeman, who has rarely come across sea turtles near his home.

He carefully lassoed the animal and placed it in a "kill bag," commonly used for fish, and poured water in the bag to keep it hydrated.

Though the turtle was not injured, "he was pretty lethargic," Freeman said. "If he was a healthy turtle there was no way I could've grabbed him."

The turtle may have wound up in the drainage ditch after being swept up by an extremely high tide, known as a King Tide, Freeman said.

While he is not certified to handle turtles, Freeman said it is important to return animals back to safety when you see them in harm's way.

"If you have experience handling animals, I wouldn't hesitate," he said. "Do what you gotta do."

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