Another Abalone Diver Dies, 9th This Season


Helicopter refueling during the search Saturday for the missing diver. [Photo from a reader of MendocinoSportsPlus]

A Vallejo man is dead after going abalone diving on Saturday in the Point Arena area. That makes the 9th death this season. Only a week ago, a San Francisco man died abalone diving near Gualala.

As the season ends today, this weekend’s death will likely be the last. But, this season’s death toll has been large. According to this article in the San Francisco Weekly, a five to six deaths a season is normal on the North Coast.

As yet there is no  required divers’ safety course for ab diving.

Press release from the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office:

On 11-28-2015 at approximately 7:12 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies were summoned to the area of the 45000 block of Light House Rd, Point Arena CA. for a report of a missing diver.

Representatives from the United States Coast Guard (Station Noyo Harbor), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, and Fire personal from the Redwood Coast Volunteer Fire Protection District were requested to respond and assist in the search.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived on scene and learned that two men from Vallejo CA had entered the ocean in the area of the Point Arena Lighthouse at around 2:45 PM to dive for abalone. The reporting party said he finished diving first and noticed it was starting to get dark and he had not heard from his friend who was still in the water. The reporting person said the missing diver was last seen in a cove about 300 yards north of the Point Arena Light House. The reporting party was unable to locate his friend and called 9-1-1 for help.

Helicopters, boats, and personnel on land were utilized to search the area. The search continued into the night but the missing diver could not be found.

On 11-29-2015 the Mendocino County Sheriff Volunteer Search and Rescue Team, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, along with the United States Coast Guard, California State Parks, California Fish and Wildlife, and Redwood Coast Volunteer Fire protection District continued the search for the missing diver.

At about 10:05 AM the missing diver was located, deceased, by members of the Mendocino County volunteer Search and Rescue Team approximately ¼ mile north of the Point Arena Light House in the surf at the Manchester State Beach. The decedent’s name is being withheld pending Next of Kin notification.



  • “…Saturday in the Point Area area.” Point Arena

  • Never dove before, how do they die? Is this with air tank, or holding breath?

    • No tanks allowed, it’s free diving. Problem is we get these out of towners that are out of shape going into a serious ocean. So they usually either underestimate their health or the ocean conditions. Once in awhile a local has almost got caught up in the kelp beds. But it’s usually people from the city that are overweight and/or have bad hearts.

    • Usually it’s a heart problem in divers over 50. The cold water and exertion seem to bring on heart attacks.

      • I agree with tall trees. Heart attack is most likely what happened. One of my fathers best friends died Abing right after he got his biggest ab yet. Any real old timer local in shelter cove knows of Lester. Heart attack from seeing a 14 incher jk. Prayers to the family of this poor man. May he be diving in the waters of heaven now.

        • too long, too deep

          If a diver stays down just an instant too long, he/she will black-out underwater and end up with lungs full of saltwater. Maybe the body comes up or maybe it takes a day or two. Beginners die easier, but experienced divers die, too. So tasty, so dangerous.

    • Breathhold. Your mask can get knocked off and a wave fills your lungs w/water, your fin can get stuck between rocks and you panic, a surge can jam you into an underwater cave, discarded fishline can catch on you, you can have a disabling cramp, you can get into an offshore current and get washed away, you can find a really big abalone and have a heart attack. Fishermen should be careful not to let discarded line go overboard. That’s stuff’s often strong.

  • “The reporting party said he finished diving first and noticed it was starting to get dark and he had not heard from his friend who was still in the water.” NO, there is no “finished diving first,” you dive as a buddy team. If you limit out before your buddy, you watch him/her finish their diving, or make them get out. This is not a solo sport. You’re never supposed to dive alone, always stick with your buddy. Something as simple as a leg cramp or fatigue can be the end of you with no one watching your back. It’s not weakness to rely on your dive partner for assistance, it’s survival and diving as a team is one of the first, if not most important, rules of diving. This is so sad for his family and friends and our diving community, RIP.

    • Truer words never spoken! Time and Tide wait for no man! A dive buddy is a part of diving unless you don’t like your self. You go out as a dive buddy and come back the same way no leaving early or any other bs. Sorry for the family and the dive buddy. The ocean is one of the most powerful things in this world….

        • I was a diver most of my youth. We always dove in groups. The more in your group the better chance you have of surviving a mishap. But, we did dive in some pretty bad waves and currents, only almost got swept away two or three times though. There is nothing like coming to the surface to find your face in 6 inches of foam. It usually blows away fast, but is somewhat disconcerting. We took great pride (stupidity) in always getting our abalone.

          There is just nothing like the thought of catching an abalone to make you do stupid things. Don’t!

    • Gibbs and Jeff, don’t make the dive buddy look like he’s responsible for this. How would you feel if this was one of your dive buddy’s. Are you saying that this man is a murderer because he lost track of his friend for an unknown reason. Be careful acting all high and mighty, mr. I only do the right things. This could happen to you too. Wake up and think, maybe the man who died was more experienced, obviously he was, over 300 yards from the lighthouse. Maybe the less experienced man couldn’t handle it and the man who died told him to head in I’ll be fine. And besides when it’s ruff it’s really easy to get separated. You both act like experienced divers who has never experienced anything that has to do with diving. Please don’t go abbing if you put blame on the dive buddy like that. The oceans spirits will swallow you up.

      • Lost Croat Outburst

        Lighten up. Nobody called anybody a murderer. Everybody feels bad about it. All the different reasons offered as possible explanations are valid. An autopsy may reveal heart failure, if any. You are correct that the companion may have surfaced just for orientation, not abandonment.

        The ocean is incredibly dangerous. It can pull hikers off the beach and drown them. Condolences and sympathy to all. Let’s be careful about assumptions.

  • Ab diving is dangerous even if your experienced!!my whole family were divers all my life,always lucky thank you God!!!!My heart and prayers go out to this family God bless you

    • Wasn’t it part of gods plan for them to die? I mean if you thank god for your family members staying safe, it stands to reason that god chose this poor fellow to die. Then again if he went to paradise, I suppose that’s a good thing. But if that’s true why would his family be sad? They will have all eternity to see them again in paradise.

      • Two things going on: – another death among millions, all sorrowful but inevitable, all tragic or upsetting to those who knew the deceased (which most of us didn’t); and – Kym’s newspaper, which all of us reading this know and which she likes to make as professional as possible.

  • Do abalone divers normally enter the water at 2:45pm? To me that seems late, but I know nothing about diving.

    • Since the low tide was in the evening, no not late in the day to be diving. Weather conditions being that they are though, I would not have even attempted to get abalone.

    • depends on the tide when you dive….. also our family dives in the summer. Like May and maybe July. Always on the Fort Bragg area coastal line. I never hear of more than maybe one death. Many years ago a guy was diving to far out and a shark attack killed him….Not to far from where they dive. They always buddy dive. They always get their limit.

  • anybody know if crab season is still delayed?? I want some crab cakes…

    • Go and free dive for them!
      Little bit of choppy water shouldn’t hold you back champ!

    • Someone just told me today that some areas are beginning to open up. San Francisco region and parts of Oregon are what I heard. Testing a few days ago off Crescent City came back with results just a little bit high still so cross your fingers for the entire north coast to open pretty soon.

  • No Ab is worth a life, what a nightmare.
    This is surely not the way to check out of this life early.

  • The ocean is so powerful.also so sorry to his buddy,what a awful thing to happen to you as well.heartfelt prayers to all.and no matter what a mother lost her son,please folks have a little heart.i grew up in a ab diving family and feared every time they were in the water,I was on the beach waiting if they didn’t surface I had to get help.but always went in groups with time limits,it I guess made us feel better.

  • XL Swell was 13@20 this week with bigger surf coming Friday Sat. Never go into the Ocean in the winter without reading the Marine Forcast on the NOAA site. Big waves over reef means death. He made that fatal error, Sad to hear

  • Sorry for the fam but the whole dive class bullshit that is in this write up is just another way to pull money out of a broke economy and a broke man trying to live off the land!!! Watch he had a stoke like a lot of other diver’s that have passed diving!! It’s not uncommon but we don’t hear about it [edit]

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