Rescuer Drowned, Autopsy Concludes

Although a Ventura Harbor patrolman who drowned Sunday while saving swimmers hit his head on a rock during the rescue, authorities said that did not appear to be related to his death.

Paul Korber, a 10-year veteran, died after saving a woman and her two young children from a riptide near the harbor's south jetty.

"He's a hero to everybody here," said Mitch Breese, a Ventura County medical examiner.

Breese said that although Korber, 45, hit his head during the rescue, it was a minor bump and did not appear to be a factor in his death.

An autopsy performed Monday determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation by drowning, Breese said.

Korber is survived by his 10-year-old son, Barrett, a great aunt who lives in the area and parents who live near San Diego. Korber's wife died of cancer three years ago.

Harbor Patrol officials said Korber's death was the first rescue-related fatality involving a Harbor Patrol officer in the agency's 46-year history.

Sunday's incident occurred about 250 feet offshore when Karen Van Deventer of Canyon Country and her two sons, ages 7 and 11, were carried out to sea by a riptide.

"As I understand it, [the children] were accidentally swept off the beach," said Scott Miller, harbor operations manager. "It wasn't like they were swimming. . . . And she tried to rescue them."

Korber and Miller arrived at the scene in a harbor patrol boat.

Korber dove off the boat and tried to lead the trio out of the riptide while Miller maneuvered the boat so Van Deventer and her children could climb on board.

It wasn't until after the three were safely aboard that anyone was able to help Korber.

"We noticed he was in trouble, but we had to get the woman and her children on board before we could give assistance to Paul," Miller said.

Korber was removed from the water within moments, but never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura.

A trust fund has been set up for Korber's son. Contributions should be made to the Paul Korber Memorial Fund, Bank of Ventura, 5808 E. Telephone Road, Ventura, CA 93003.

For more information, call 644-8136.

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