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Unexpected wave costs fisherman his life


Published: January 4, 2014

SWEPT OFF the rocky shoreline by a wave near Soberanes Point in Big Sur, a fisherman drowned Dec. 28.

The man — whose identity hasn’t been released — and a friend were fishing from a rock high above the surf at about 10 a.m. when his line got snagged on a another rock below, Deputy Jesse Villasenor of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office told The Pine Cone.

“Both went down below to unsnag the hook or line when a wave surprised them and pulled them into the ocean,”  Villasenor said.

The victim’s friend managed to get out of the water and quickly called for help. But he lost sight of the other man.

Responding to the incident were State Parks lifeguards, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, the Mid Coast Volunteer Fire Brigade, Cal Fire and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.
It was the helicopter’s crew who finally found the man about two hours later. He was about 200 yards from shore.

“One of the lifeguards jumped in the water and got the victim,” Villasenor explained. “He was already dead.”

The man was the latest in a long line of people — many fishermen — who have drowned over the years along the coast at Garrapata State Park or at nearby Rocky Point.

Most locals know that the ocean can be deadly, and state parks tries to make it clear to everybody else that the shoreline along the North Big Sur is particularly treacherous.

“The surf is extremely dangerous,” a warning reads. “Do not swim, wade or climb on rocks.”

The day before the drowning, a man who suffered a mishap nearby was luckier. A 19-year-old from Salinas was hiking along the cliffs with two friends just south of Soberanes Point when he fell and slipped down to the surf. The incident happened just before sunset, and lifeguards, the search and rescue team, Mid-Coast volunteers and Cal Fire all responded.

The man was treated for minor scrapes and hypothermia before he was released.

Fortunately, he didn’t need an ambulance ride to town — the Carmel Highlands was experiencing a holiday season traffic jam.

“I was amazed at all the cars,” Villasenor said. “It was bumper to bumper.”

Early the next morning, the search and rescue team traveled inland to Tassajara Road, where a man from Pacific Grove was reported missing by his family after he went for a day hike along the Horse Pasture Trail near the Tassajara Zen Center the previous afternoon.

But before the team reached the trailhead, they found the man driving down Tassajara Road, and he was fine. The man, who was in his 60s, had become lost along the trail as the light faded, so he hunkered down for the night.

“He was a little cold, but he kept his wits about him,” Villasenor explained. “He was a good hiker who made good decisions.”