Drowned abalone diver identified

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Posted by on June 21, 2007 at 07:37:47:

In Reply to: S.F. man dies diving for abalone posted by on June 19, 2007 at 12:21:25:

Rough water conditions may be to blame in San Francisco man's death


The San Francisco man who drowned while abalone diving off of the Mendocino Coast was identified Monday as Sun Leung Wong.

The 51-year-old had been diving Sunday morning in the area of Jack Peters Creek, near the Mendocino Headlands.

An autopsy Monday morning showed salt-water drowning, Mendocino County Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Broin said.

Wong was the sixth person to die off the Mendocino County Coast while pursuing the delicacy this season.

His wife, whose name wasn't available, had apparently spotted her husband and recognized he was in distress from the cliffs above.

The despondent woman was taken to a local hospital for treatment, said Mendocino Fire Chief Danny Hervilla.

It's possible that water conditions played a role in the latest abalone-related death, sheriff's and fire officials said.

The wind had blown all night and the ocean Sunday morning remained a bit rough, Hervilla said. However, it was a beautifully clear morning with a very low tide, making diving attractive despite the chop to the water.

The cove, just north of the town of Mendocino, is popular spot with out-of-town divers and rock pickers, Hervilla said.

Locals would tend to avoid it on a windy day because it is unprotected, he said.

Wong had been diving for a few years, so had some experience, Broin said deputies were told.

Just how long he'd been diving when he got into trouble wasn't clear. Nor was it known whether he'd been diving alone, Hervilla said.

At about 9:30 a.m., nearby divers noticed a woman on the shore in distress and went to help.

Then they spotted the man floating about 30 yards off shore, Broin said.

The divers pulled him to the rocks and arriving state Department of Fish and Game wardens gave him CPR but he couldn't be revived and paramedics pronounced the man dead.

To get to the diver, emergency crews had to scale the cliff and cross 200 yards of slippery, wet rocks.

With the low tide, a state forestry helicopter was able to briefly land on the flat rocks.

Without the helicopter, the firefighters would have spent hours removing the body, Hervilla said.

"It's very treacherous for us," he said.

Coastal firefighters and law enforcement officers have been training extensively for such cases, including a recent two-day session involving several North Coast agencies.

The year's high number of abalone diving deaths was on everyone's minds, Hervilla said.

"This year has been pretty overwhelming . . . way too many," Hervilla said.

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