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Pacifica CSI: Don't Go Near the Water

Sharp Park Killer Waves Claim 3 Lives in 2010: "Not a Beach to Come Out and Play"


MAN PRESUMED DROWNED OFF PACIFICA BEACH--By Matthai Kuruvila, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, March 19, 2010, PACIFICA -- A man was presumed drowned in the ocean off the coast of Pacifica Thursday hours after his two companions left the beach and didn't report him missing for 3 1/2-hours, the U.S. Coast Guard reported late Thursday. The three people were on the beach near the Pacifica Municipal Pier around 2 p.m. Thursday. One of them entered the ocean, but never came out, according to Pacifica Police and the Coast Guard. It's not clear whether either of the other two people - a man and a woman - entered the water as well, said Lt. j.g. Jeremy Pichette of the Coast Guard. The two then left the scene. But three witnesses on the beach saw what happened and contacted Pacifica police at 2:17 p.m. That prompted a massive sea, air and land search-and-rescue effort by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard searched 45 square miles of ocean, Pichette said. Pacifica police and firefighters combed the shoreline looking for the body. At around 6 p.m., the female companion contacted the Coast Guard and identified the missing man. At 8:40 p.m., after six hours of searching, the Coast Guard called off the search, Pichette said. They are contacting the next of kin.

Posted: 4:25 pm PDT March 18,2010
Updated: 10:36 pm PDT March 18, 2010
PACIFICA, Calif. -- The U.S. Coast Guard was forced to suspend its search for a reportedly intoxicated man officials believe was swept to his death while swimming in the ocean off the Pacifica coast Thursday as the friends he was partying with allegedly fled the scene. Police said three people went swimming at Sharp Park Beach about 500 yards south of the Pacifica Pier. One man never made it back to shore. They also saw his companions -- who'd been partying with him -- flee the beach when he got into trouble. The Coast Guard searched by air and boat for more than five hours as daylight faded before suspending the search at around 8:40 p.m. They have not found the victim's body yet. But authorities do know the man's identity, thanks to those friends who finally called in. Witnesses told police they were nervous seeing the man -- who appeared intoxicated -- jumping around in the waves. “We saw this guy get into the water and two to three waves knocked him down really bad,” said witness Mihail Matikov. “We could see something was going to happen.” The Schmitz family was walking their dogs when they paused to watch him a few minutes. “[He was] going in the water and then letting the waves come over him,” described Jeffrey Schmitz. “And then one time he got pounded by a wave, and stood back up.” But at some point he didn't get back up. The man and woman with him became alarmed. The man jumped in and tried to grab him before retreated back to the sand. What witnesses described next even surprised police. The man’s friends left the scene while telling bystanders to call 911. “At this point, we've been unable to locate the friends, but no crime has been committed,” said Pacifica Police Capt. Dave Bertini. “There's no law in California requiring someone to stay and report or assist in any way.” Hours later, Sharp Park Beach was once again full of people with little or no awareness that someone had drowned there earlier in the day. Even children were wading in. Locals familiar with this stretch of levee know the waves break hard and close to shore. This isn't where they'd ever swim. People just don't realize the power of these waves,” said Pacifica resident Cathy Stanley. “A set comes in, they just don't get it. [At] five minute intervals sets will come in and get you.” But unsuspecting beach visitors may underestimate the danger. There are warning signs further north towards the Pacifica Pier, but nothing posted at the southern end of the beach. This was the second drowning in recent months at almost the same spot. A 37-year-old Berkeley woman walking the beach with friends in the wee hours was swept away in January. “This is not a beach for people to come out and play,” said local Catherine Schmitz. “We've seen the result now two times horribly. One at night, one in the daytime, Someone loses their life in dangerous waves.”

"A 44-year-old woman died after being swept underwater by a wave at Sharp Park Beach in Pacifica Sunday afternoon, according to police. Shortly before 1:45 p.m., Pacifica police officers and members of the North County Fire Department responded to a report of a possible drowning Arriving officers found the woman floating face down in the water about 35 feet from shore, Pacifica police said. The victim was pulled from the water by two members of the fire department. She was taken to Seton Medical Center and pronounced dead a short time later, according to police. After talking with family members and witnesses at the scene, investigators determined the woman had entered the water to rescue one of her dogs and was knocked down by a large wave and swept away from the beach. Family members and witnesses were unable to reach her in the heavy surf. The dog was able to swim back to shore, police said. The woman, whose name is not being released until her family is notified of the death, drowned in the same area where a 44-year-old man is presumed to have drowned less than two weeks ago. On March 18, Richard Serrano Jr. entered the waters off Sharp Park Beach and was knocked down by several waves. He never resurfaced and his body has not been found." (Bay City News, March 28)

On April 1, Serrano's body washed up on the beach below Esplanade in Pacifica.


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