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Diver dies diving Monastery during 11-foot swell


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Posted by on December 29, 2007 at 10:39:33:

Diver dies in tall waves off Monastery Beach
Carmel: Two others escape from ocean surge
By LAITH AGHA
Herald Staff Writer

Two dive partners who were involved in a struggle of their own with Monastery Beach's notoriously dangerous undertow reportedly did not see what chain of events led to Edward Diaz of Las Vegas being found floating face down and unconscious in the water.

Nearly 90 minutes after Diaz was pulled from the water, he was pronounced dead at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. He was 39.

Diaz, described as a master diver who used to live in the Monterey area, worked at Colorado River Divers dive shop in Las Vegas, said Jay Gundy, the store's owner. Gundy declined to comment further.

The cause of death has not been determined, said State Parks spokesman Mike McMenamy.

The ocean conditions at Monastery Beach, about a mile south of the Carmel River Lagoon, were "super dangerous," said State Parks lifeguard Erik Larson.

The ocean swell was more than 11 feet around the time of the incident, said Steve Anderson, meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Monterey office.

"It's a dangerous beach to start with," Larson said. "Entry and exit is difficult, then add all the equipment, that makes it even more difficult."

Neither of Diaz's dive partners would talk to news reporters. Larson relayed their account of the incident.

As they were entering the water around 11:30 a.m., fully outfitted in their diving gear, one of the surviving divers was overtaken by a surge while standing knee-deep in the water. The other surviving diver took off his
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equipment to maximize his mobility as he attempted to rescue his distressed partner. He managed to get him out of the water after several arduous minutes.

When the two looked for Diaz, they spotted him floating in the water face down.

"They were so exhausted from the first rescue, they couldn't get to him at first," Larson said.

They eventually managed to get him out of the water, at which point a sheriff's deputy had arrived. Paramedics with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection arrived shortly after and immediately began performing CPR on Diaz, who was not breathing, Larson said.

Paramedics continued CPR for more than 30 minutes before taking Diaz to Community Hospital. He was pronounced dead around 1 p.m., said McMenamy.

Diaz's death adds to the beach's reputation as one of the most dangerous spots along Monterey County's coast. Notoriously referred to as "Mortuary" Beach, its steep-sloping shore makes it deceptively dangerous.

"It's one of the deadliest beaches around here," said James Vincent, an employee at Aquarius Dive Shop. "You really have to pick the right days."

Vincent said he has been involved in several close calls at Monastery Beach since he began diving the area about nine months ago.

Because of Monastery's steep shore angled at about 45 degrees waves don't crash on it the way they do on flatter beaches. Instead, the surge of energy passing through the water hits Monastery as a shorebreak, followed by a strong backwash.

Larson emphasized the need for exercising extra caution when diving at Monastery. He said divers should spend at least 30 minutes assessing the water's conditions before entering, and once in the water, they should always be working as a team.

"This spot is for experienced divers only," Larson said. "Divers shouldn't go out unless they're in good condition and the ocean conditions are good. Make sure you're entering the ocean in a safe place."

Laith Agha can be reached at 646-4358 or lagha@montereyherald.com.



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