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Pacific Beach Drowning Brings S.D. Total to 13 for ’86

Times Staff Writer

A 26-year-old Arizona man drowned Saturday at Pacific Beach, adding to the unusually high number of drownings at city beaches this year, authorities said.

The death of Joseph Peter Brown of Mesa, Ariz., in a guarded area of Pacific Beach near the foot of Grand Avenue was San Diego’s 13th drowning this year.

Chris Brewster, a sergeant with San Diego’s lifeguard service, said Brown went under shortly before 11 a.m. in light surf about 100 yards from shore. After a 45-minute search by a dozen lifeguards, three rescue boats and a sheriff’s helicopter, the helicopter crew spotted him about 10 feet below the surface. Searchers recovered Brown and attempted to revive him, but he was declared dead at the beach shortly before noon.

With the busy summer season only beginning, this year’s 13 drownings match the total number for all of 1985, Brewster said. City figures dating back to 1946 show the record is 14 drownings, set in both 1968 and 1978, he said.

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The major culprits this year, according to Brewster, are “extremely hazardous” rip currents, which are partially the result of heavy winter surf. The off-season surf, Brewster explained, has gouged out numerous holes and other irregular depressions in the ocean floor, worsening the Pacific’s already fierce rip currents.

Making matters worse, he added, is the tendency of many bathers to swim in areas where there are no lifeguards. Statistics show that the vast majority of drownings occur at unguarded beaches.

“We really do strongly recommend that people swim in lifeguarded areas,” Brewster said. “There are no guarantees that because you have a lifeguard, no one is going to drown, but the chances (of drowning) are greatly reduced when you have a lifeguard there.”


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