From near death to new life: Turtle leaves Oregon for San Diego

EUGENE, Ore. - What looked like a rock stopped Nadine Fuller in her tracks at her favorite beach near Newport in June.

Fuller spotted it first through her binoculars, then ran toward the water.

She could see the endangered Pacific green sea turtle was in trouble.

"I thought he was dead," Fuller said Tuesday, remembering that day. "He had washed in with the tide. He was just laying there."

The turtle has been recuperating at the Oregon Coast Aquarium for the past two months.

Now known as Koa, the turtle got a ride from Newport to the Eugene Airport on Tuesday, where SeaWorld and the Navy met him to fly him south to San Diego.

Once there, the endangered turtle will undergo more rehabilitation with a goal of someday soon releasing him into the wild.

"He's a young mature male. He looks good, he's reacting well, he's eating well. He's gaining weight," said Laura Todd with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "So we presume that he'll be able to set free."

When Fuller first saw Koa two months, he was dying.

She visited him Tuesday as he boarded the plane to San Diego.

"I think it's wonderful," she said. "He's off! It's great!"