Posted by on August 26, 2004 at 00:24:35:
In Reply to: another Santa Rosa Press Democrat article posted by Chris on August 18, 2004 at 01:26:46:
Diver relives 'horrifying' moments of deadly attack
FORT BRAGG - Only moments before terror struck, abalone divers Randy Fry and Cliff Zimmerman were calmly bobbing in the shallow waters of a sheltered cove, one they had been coming to for 30 years.
Fry and Zimmerman chatted while they adjusted their gear and prepared to make another dive in the familiar cove. A friend, Red Bartley of Modesto, watched them from Zimmerman's fishing boat about 150 feet away.
The Sunday afternoon outing, agreed upon at the last minute by the three friends, was proving fruitful. After only 15 minutes in the water, Fry and Zimmerman already had surfaced with three abalone north of Ten Mile River Beach near Westport.
Both divers were well aware the Mendocino County coast was shark territory. Before they entered the water, Fry and Zimmerman even told Bartley to watch for seals or sea lions sliding into the water, movement that could attract the predatory great white shark.
Zimmerman, as he had done many times before, casually turned and put his head under the blue-green water so he could clear his diving mask before diving again.
Suddenly, he heard the strangest "whooshing" sound. Then he felt water surging around him.
As he raised his head out of the water to take a look, he saw a "very large object with the force of a freight train" slamming past him and heading for Fry.
"It's weird but I recall wondering at first if it were only a big fish, or maybe even a sea lion. It was like I was counting the possibilities," Zimmerman recalled Monday at his Fort Bragg home.
He said his anxiety soared as he realized the object in the water kept getting "bigger and bigger."
Then he saw the shark's dorsal fin.
"I remember exclaiming out loud, 'Holy shit!' I started feeling really scared," he said.
He said he believes Fry was never aware of the shark.
"Randy had just dove below the surface, and I remember seeing the tail of his fins sliding below the water," he said.
"Then there was nothing, nothing at all until blood began bubbling up to the water's surface," he said.
He said he shouted to Bartley in the boat, "Do you see Randy? Do you see Randy?"
Bartley also had seen Fry's fins disappear beneath the surface of the water and then nothing until the pool of blood.
"Get in the boat," Bartley shouted to Zimmerman.
Zimmerman tore off his diver's weight belt and began swimming as fast as he could to the boat.
"I was never more terrified in my life," he said.
He was convinced the shark would get him before he reached the safety of the boat.
"I just kept wondering how it was going to feel. I was praying it wouldn't be too painful," he said.
He reached the boat, and Bartley quickly helped pull him aboard.
"I remember being elated and extremely grateful that I was still alive," Zimmerman said.
His joy was short-lived, however.
"Red radioed for help, and we began to call out Randy's name," Zimmerman said.
A local fisherman in his boat arrived on the scene, and Zimmerman and Bartley pointed him to a spot where Fry's breathing tube was floating in the water.
"But none of us saw anything else but the blood," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman and Bartley described their experiences as "horrifying," especially in view of a sunny day not unlike many others they had shared on the coast.
"We were enjoying the nice weather. We had gone to this cove year after year, and always came away with plenty of abalone, and a lot of good cheer," Zimmerman said.
But on Sunday, he said simply, "I guess we were at the wrong place at the wrong time."
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