Three abalone divers killed in Sonoma County

(BCN)

A retired Pacifica firefighter and a San Francisco man died in separate incidents while diving for abalone on the Sonoma County coast this weekend, a Sonoma County sheriff’s sergeant said.

A third diver was killed in yet another incident in coastal Mendocino County, authorities said.

A Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter responded around 1 p.m. Saturday to a report of a distressed diver at Shell Beach in the Sea Ranch area, Sgt. Ed Hoener said.

Cedric William Collette, 66, of Pacifica, who was diving with a friend, was found under water, Hoener said.

Because Collette was an experienced diver and was still wearing his weight belt when he was found, it is believed he might have suffered a medical emergency, Hoener said.

Collette was pronounced dead at 1:49 p.m., a Sonoma County coroner’s office spokeswoman said.

In the second incident, the helicopter crew responded around 8 a.m. Sunday to a report of a diver in distress at Gerstle Cove near Salt Point State Park, Hoener said.

Kenneth Liu, 36, of San Francisco, was also diving with a friend, and the friend heard him calling for help after he was pulled away from shore by a rip tide, Hoener said.

People on shore swam out to him and managed to bring him back to land against the strong tide, but emergency responders were unable to revive him, Hoener said.

Liu was pronounced dead at 8:58 a.m., according to the coroner’s office.

The third diver died Sunday north of Fort Bragg on the Mendocino County coast, Hoener said.

Abalone diving season started April 1, and three diving deaths in one weekend is unusual, Hoener said.

(Copyright 2013 Bay City News.  All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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