Coast Guard saves abalone diver that was swept out to sea

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. – The Coast Guard rescued a 36 year-old male abalone diver from the waters outside of Mendocino Bay after he was swept out to sea Thursday.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., the Coast Guard received a report of a diver being carried out to sea from the Mendocino Fire Department.

Two men were diving for abalone together when they became separated and one was taken out to sea by a rip current. The other diver made it safely to shore and called for help. The Mendocino Fire Department contacted the Coast Guard as the fire fighters arrived on scene and visually acquired the diver in the water.

Due to the high surf, the hazardous conditions at the Noyo River bar, and the fact that the diver was in close proximity to the surf zone, Station Noyo River launched a pair of 47-foot Motor Lifeboats to the scene and Air Station Humboldt Bay launched an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Arcata Airport.

“He was a good ways offshore when we spotted him,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Gabriel Tait, the coxswain of one of the motor lifeboats. “We have to give credit to the Mendocino Fire Department who kept their eyes on the diver and vectored us right to him.”

At 9:15 a.m., battling steep swells of up to 12 feet, Tait drove his motor lifeboat up to the man who was holding onto a small flotation device. “I got to within two feet of him and he didn’t even try to grab the boat or try to get on board.” The crew of the motor lifeboat grabbed the man and pulled him onto the vessel where he appeared to be hypothermic and exhausted. Concerned with the diver’s condition, the crew of the motor lifeboat requested that the helicopter, nearing the scene, hoist the diver from the Coast Guard boat for transport to a hospital.

The Coast Guard helicopter arrived overhead and lowered its rescue swimmer to the deck of the 47-foot lifeboat. Working with the crew of the lifeboat, the rescue swimmer prepared the patient for hoisting onto the aircraft.

Once the rescue swimmer and diver were safely in the helicopter, the aircraft proceeded to Mendocino Coast Hospital and transferred the survivor.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that people avoid going near beaches or other low-lying coastal areas, especially jetties and rocky areas, over the next several days. Large waves can quickly, and unexpectedly sweep a person from these areas. Even the strongest swimmers can quickly be overtaken by the power of the sea, especially when the cold-water temperatures are factored in.

Due to recent accidents involving both swimmers and boaters along California, all people on or near the water are urged to use extreme caution during this week’s opening season of both abalone and salmon.

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