Father dies on Christmas Eve trying to save daughter who was swept out to sea


A father died on Christmas Eve while trying to save his young daughter, whose inflatable raft was caught in a strong ocean current in Carmel, authorities said.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection received a call at 12:28 p.m. Tuesday that two swimmers had been washed out to sea at Carmel River State Beach. A father and daughter had been playing in the lagoon near the rest of their family when the current swept the raft toward the mouth of the Carmel River and into the ocean, officials said.

Cal Fire, California State Park lifeguards, the Coast Guard and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office launched a search for the pair.


Rescue boats found the girl about half a mile away about 20 minutes later and took her to a hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia and exposure. Her father was found nearly an hour and half later. He was unresponsive and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Cal Fire was not releasing the names of the dead man or his daughter. According to KSBW-TV (Channel 8), the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office identified the the father as Paul Lewis, 53, of Monterey. Officials from the Sheriff’s Office were not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Heavy rains on Monday had filled the lagoon, according to George Nunez, assistant chief of the Southern Division of the San Benito/Monterey Cal Fire unit. But beachgoers had not been deterred from visiting the area.

Nunez said despite the winter weather, it’s not uncommon for people to visit the beach, which is about a mile south of downtown Carmel. About 20 other visitors were in the vicinity at the time, he said.

“I’m sure there will be additional PSAs coming regarding the current,” Nunez said. “We’ll take what we can from this to shore up safety down there.”

A note on the California Beaches website warned beachgoers not to swim at Carmel River State Beach because of a dangerous undertow.