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Wet Suit Saves Diver Washed Overboard

Times Staff Writer

Alternately swimming in six-foot seas and floating “like a cork” for more than four hours, a Monrovia scuba diver who was washed overboard from his boat six miles out in the Pacific was flung ashore near Oxnard on Sunday night--less than a mile from where his boat beached itself.

Gustavo Pinzon, 29, was hospitalized briefly after he crawled to a beachfront home, officials said; the wet suit he was wearing when he and his cousins, Miguel Pinzon, 33, and Carlos Pinzon, 30, went scuba diving off Anacapa Island on Sunday afternoon saved him from death in the icy, choppy waters.

“That’s what saved his life--he had his wet suit on,” said Miguel Pinzon, who had given Gustavo up for dead when he saw him washed overboard from their 22-foot cabin cruiser as the engine stalled in 25-m.p.h. winds and high seas sometime after noon on Sunday.

The trio had had time for just one dive before the weather worsened, “so we decided to come back. Then we had problems with the engine,” Miguel recounted.

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‘Couldn’t Get Him’

As they were tinkering, waves so big “they almost capsized the boat” tossed Gustavo overboard. “We couldn’t get him. . . . I could do nothing,” Miguel said. “I saw him for maybe two minutes” before he disappeared. “We thought he was dying.”

Then, for about three hours, Miguel and Carlos drifted in the disabled boat, beset by rough seas, until the craft finally ran aground on Hollywood Beach north of Oxnard. When the craft hit the sand, the brothers ran to nearby homes to call frantically for Coast Guard rescuers to search for Gustavo.

A helicopter from Los Angeles and a utility boat from Oxnard had searched the seas off Oxnard for more than an hour, said a Los Angeles Coast Guard spokeswoman, when the call came from Ventura County sheriff’s deputies that Gustavo, exhausted but alive, had crawled ashore within a mile of the beached boat.

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“He’s a real lucky guy,” said Miguel, who visited his cousin at St. John’s Regional Medical Center, where he was taken. Gustavo told his cousin he swam and floated “like a cork” toward land.


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