Diver disappears off of Van Damme

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Posted by on December 03, 2004 at 07:44:55:

A San Francisco man disappeared while free diving for abalone at Van Damme State Park, on Saturday at around 3:30 p.m. The search continues for William Krupski, 56, according to the county sheriffs office.

A three-man dive team spent more than three hours Monday searching about 200 yards off the parks shore, finding the victims abalone iron and gauge, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Tuesday.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Sheriffs Office spokesman Kevin Broin said the search is ongoing, three divers having gone out again that day, but nothing new turned up. Six people had been searching the shoreline, as well.

Among the agencies that continue to work on the case are the Department of Fish and Game, County Search and Rescue, the Sheriffs Office and divers from the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department and State Parks.

William Krupski was diving in the area with his wife. According to the Sheriffs Office report, the pair was separated when Mrs. Krupski attempted to retrieve float tubes that had drifted away. Mrs. Krupski returned with the tubes but was unable to locate her husband. She eventually was able to swim back to shore in the rough ocean waters and call for help.

The Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and State Parks initiated a ground and air search immediately. MVFD launched two boats, one off Big River and one at Van Damme.

The search was suspended at approximately 6:30 p.m., Saturday because of the hazardous surf and darkness. At 8 a.m. Sunday, the Sheriffs Office search and rescue team resumed the search.

The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from McKinlleyville and a 47-foot motor life boat for the search on Saturday. A total of 13 people were on the case. Lt. Shawn McMillan said that the Coast Guard suspended the search late Tuesday morning after conducting a first light search earlier with both water and land units dispatched.

MVFDs incident commander, Dan Hervilla, said that ocean conditions were horrible Saturday evening.

If they were any worse, we wouldnt have deployed the boats, Hervilla said. We have guidelines as to what conditions we will deploy under, like green flag or red flag, and this was close to a red flag.

Hervilla explained that the guidelines are specific to the fire district, not the Coast Guard. He also said there were mechanical difficulties with one boat, but MVFD officer Dave Latoof did an outstanding job operating it and navigating the turbulent waters. Eighteen firefighters responded to the call.

It was a tragic situation, as is frequently the case when we go to look for a missing diver, Hervilla said. Some things that came to mind for me were for people to take into consideration not only the conditions of their physical environment, but their mental and physical condition as well. Also, to consider that rescue efforts may be hampered by weather conditions. This happens way too often up here and seems to be increasing exponentially in terms of its effects not only on the victim and his family, but the community and extended community.

Assistant MVFD Chief Ed OBrien and five others in his group were the eyes at the top of the cliff, trying to see if the victim might have gone into any of the surrounding coves. OBrien said that they went as far south as the Little River Cemetery, then looked farther south on private property. They also tried to keep in contact visually with the rescue boats. Firefighters returned to the station at 8 p.m.

My basic feeling is that there has to be a healthy fear of the ocean. Without it, we are going to have more and more of these incidents, OBrien said. People should not get comfortable with adverse ocean conditions. We need to emphasize this.

Krupski is the chief surgeon of vascular surgery at San Franciscos Kaiser-Permanente Hospital and a professor of surgery at UC San Francisco. Both the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported he is a nationally-recognized expert in his field.

The following safety tips for divers were given by Morgan Zeitler, visitor services superintendent for State Parks:

1. Get proper training for the type of diving you are doing.

2. Keep physically fit.

3. Dive with a buddy.

4. Know your equipment and check it before diving.

5. Check local weather and water conditions.

6. Have an emergency plan.

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