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Dad Drowns, 2 Children Rescued in Fall at Sunset Cliffs

A 34-year-old Arizona man drowned and his 7-year-old son was hospitalized Sunday, the boy’s birthday, after a wave swept them into treacherous surf while they walked along the rocky shoreline near Ocean Beach, authorities said.

The victims, from Mesa, were identified as Michael Lee Reetz and his son, Joshua Michael.

Amy Lynn Reetz, the dead man’s 9-year-old daughter, also was swept into the ocean but managed to return to shore, according to city lifeguards.

The victims, who were in San Diego visiting a relative, apparently decided to take a walk along Sunset Cliffs, a rocky area where there are no lifeguards and little beach--and at a time when the surf was surging.

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Also injured was a 23-year-old city lifeguard, John Everhart, who suffered a broken right leg while attempting to rescue the victims.

The accident, authorities said, points to the danger of walking along unguarded shoreline, particularly when the surf is high. Fatalities from such incidents are not unusual, lifeguards said.

“We caution people to stay away from the water when the surf is large because an unusually large wave can come and sweep you in,” said Lt. Chris Brewster of the San Diego Marine Safety Service, as the city lifeguards are known. “And we really encourage people who want to have a look at the ocean to do it in an area where there is a lifeguard watching it.”

Authorities provided the following account of the incident:

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The three were walking near the foot of Del Monte Avenue when they were swept into the swirling water shortly after 11 a.m. Three lifeguards from a nearby station responded to the call, dived into the ocean and attempted to apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while the victims were still being thrown about in the surf.

Efforts to revive the victims continued as they were guided to a nearby rescue boat. Lifeguards noted a pulse from the child but no signs of life in his father. The rescue craft ferried both victims to Ocean Beach, where authorities rushed them to hospitals.

The father was declared dead at 12:18 p.m. at Sharp Cabrillo Hospital. The son, taken by Life Flight helicopter to Sharp Memorial Hospital, was in critical condition Sunday afternoon.

Authorities at Children’s Hospital, where the boy was transferred after treatment at Sharp’s emergency room, would not comment on his condition late Sunday.

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