Santa Rosa (US): Three recreational abalone divers died in separate incidents over the weekend in Northern California, where powerful rip currents were reported.
A low tide drew the divers to the beaches looking for the mollusks that are prized delicacies by seafood lovers, the Press Democrat reported yesterday.
The body of a 66-year-old retired firefighter was found on Saturday afternoon off Shell Beach in Sonoma County.
Cedric Collett had been diving with a friend but didn`t resurface, the newspaper said. His body was found still in his weight belt, which is used to help a diver stay submerged while prying abalone loose from rocks.
Yesterday morning, several divers helped pull 36-year-old Kenneth Liu to shore after he got caught in a rip tide off nearby Salt Point State Park, but he couldn`t be revived, the newspaper said.
Several hours later, an unidentified diver was found dead north of Fort Bragg. A Sonoma County sheriff`s sergeant said the man might have been snagged in rocks.
Deaths from abalone diving are common during the recreational harvesting season. However, three in a single weekend was a shock, even to authorities.
"It`s the busiest we`ve been in that short amount of time with that many horrible outcomes," said Paul Bradley, a veteran helicopter pilot for the sheriff`s department.
Since the early 1990s, dozens of people have died in their quest to collect the prized sea snails. One diver was decapitated by a shark in Mendocino County in 2004.