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Abalone diver's death the fourth in eight days

Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.

The quest for abalone in the waters off the North Coast claimed another life Saturday morning in a season that's providing unnecessary proof of the dangers of pursuing the prized mollusks.

It was the fourth death in eight days related to the hunt for shellfish off the coasts of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, authorities said.

Emergency personnel said Saturday's victim, a middle-aged East Bay man, went into distress in Fisk Mill Cove, a popular abalone hunting ground toward the northern end of Salt Point State Park where another diver died just one week earlier.

The victim wasn't feeling well when he got out of the water around 8:15 a.m. and collapsed on the rocky beach, Supervising State Park Ranger Damien Jones said.

Bystanders began CPR and continued life-saving efforts for about 15 minutes until a state park lifeguard was flagged down and made his way to the scene, followed by additional state park personnel, Timber Cove and Cal Fire medical technicians, a Mendocino Coast Ambulance crew and others, Jones said.

CPR continued for about 30 minutes more before the man was declared dead, even as the Sonoma County sheriff's helicopter and a REACH air ambulance stood by for instructions, he said.

Jones said it was possible the man suffered the kind of medical problem that accounts for “a fair share” of the rescues and fatalities related to abalone diving.

“There's a fair amount of exertion” required of divers, Jones said.

The victim's name and hometown were not made public Saturday.

The abalone sport fishing season opened April 1 and ran for several weeks without the kind of scare that for years has illustrated the pitfalls of entering the sometimes rough surf off the North Coast.

Then last weekend, three divers died within 24 hours of one another - including a San Francisco man, Kenneth Liu, 36, who got caught Sunday morning in a rip current at Fisk Mill Cove, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said.

About an hour later, Henry Choy, 50, of San Bruno, died in rough water off a Fort Bragg beach, authorities said.

On Saturday, a retired Pacific firefighter, Cedric Collett, 66, died while diving from a beach in The Sea Ranch.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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