Even while on summer break from college, Elizabeth Lovat did not stray from the water.
A former aquatics standout at Huntington Beach High School, Lovat was serving as a city lifeguard before her planned return for her senior year at Iona University in New Rochelle, N.Y., in August. The work was routine for Lovat, who had previously worked as a lifeguard.
But on Monday, she suffered a “spinal injury while performing her duties,” according to the city of Huntington Beach.
She was taken to a hospital, where she is stable but remains in serious condition.
“Our priority at this time is to provide support for Elizabeth and her family while she recovers,” the city said in its statement on Twitter.
The message added, “Out of respect for the family’s privacy, no other information will be provided.”
The Huntington Beach Fire Outreach Assn. created a fundraising page for Lovat.
“Elizabeth has a passion for helping others and has learned and used her communication skills with American Sign Language to help her community, which has in turn shaped her career and educational goals,” the fire group said. “She knows what it takes to overcome life’s most challenging setbacks and persevere.”
Officials did not specify how Lovat was injured.
According to the California Surf Lifesaving Assn., a nonprofit that promotes beach safety awareness, most spinal injuries are “associated with diving head first and hitting the bottom.” The injuries can “have severe lifelong consequences for the victim, parents, friends and even rescuers.”
Aside from paralysis, signs of spinal injury include bruises, pain or tenderness to the neck, difficulty breathing, weakness in the arms or legs and numbness or tingling, the group noted.
Lovat was a standout water polo player at Huntington Beach High School, earning an All-Wave League first-team selection her senior year of 2019-20 after tallying 20 goals and 15 assists for the league champion Oilers. Huntington Beach won league titles in her junior and senior year, while the program claimed its first postseason victory in six years in 2018-19.
From there, Lovat joined the women’s water polo team at Iona University.
The utility player enjoyed her best season in 2022-23 as a junior, playing in 23 of the team’s 31 games and finishing with 10 goals on 16 shots. She earned her second consecutive All-Metro Atlantic Conference All-Academic Team honors. A student-athlete must earn a 3.2 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale to qualify for the accolade.
Her junior year efforts came after a shoulder injury sidelined Lovat her entire sophomore season.
Lovat is scheduled to begin her senior year studying speech pathology in late August.
The Huntington Beach native is part of an aquatics family.
Her brother John Lovat was a star player at Huntington Beach High, a member of the 2012 Golden West College men’s water polo state championship team, and a player at UC San Diego. Her sister Allison was a long-term lifeguard, having once participated in an exchange program in New Zealand.
Calls to the Lovat family were not immediately returned.