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(SAN DIEGO) — Almost two dozen teenagers had to be rescued from the water off a San Diego shore after nearly drowning.

The students were members of a swim team that were visiting the San Diego coast to compete in a long-distance swim as part of their annual beach swim training, officials said Tuesday.

That’s when a few began to panic in the rough conditions.

“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,” said Sgt. Ed Harris with the San Diego Lifeguards.

Officials said lifeguards on surfboards, jet skis and boats plucked 22 students out of the water, some in shock and suffering from hypothermia. One unconscious 16-year-old girl was rushed to the hospital.

Authorities said the windy and cold conditions were too much for the teens.

“We wouldn’t advise a group this big to go in with the conditions we were experiencing,” said San Diego Lifeguard Lt. John Sandmeyer. “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.”

The school district said the students and coaches met with lifeguards before the swim. The lifeguards said they recommended the students postpone the swim, but were told by the coaches that the students could handle it.

“Hopefully it’s a life lesson that helps them down the road,” said Harris.

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