Harbor Patrol officer killed on Catalina is being called a hero

Fierce storm hits Catalina Island
Boats driven ashore by high winds and waves line the beach in Avalon after a storm Dec. 30 wreaked havoc on Catalina Island.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The storm that battered Catalina Island earlier this week with fierce winds and rough seas killed at least one man, and he’s being called a hero.

Tim Mitchell was fighting to protect residents and save boats during the storm that “quickly and mercilessly descended upon Avalon,” the city said in a news release.

The 39-year-old was on duty as Harbor Patrol assistant, working from a patrol boat.

“He died as he tried to save the King Neptune,” the city said.


The vessel and its owners were special to Mitchell. He had worked as a dive instructor at ScubaLuv, home of the King Neptune, according to Harbor Master Brian Bray, and was a “second father” to the children of owners Bob and Tina Kennedy.

During Tuesday night’s storm, Mitchell was aboard the King Neptune as it was about to run aground at Avalon Harbor. He tried to jump ashore but didn’t make it, according to an L.A. County sheriff’s spokeswoman. Two other officers tried to rescue him, but Mitchell became pinned between the boat and the harbor rocks and was killed.

“Conditions were so horrible,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida, “they were unable to go in after him.”

Officers couldn’t retrieve Mitchell’s body until the next day. On Wednesday, boats were grounded at the harbor, which looked as if it had been struck by a hurricane, Nishida said.


Mitchell was a native of New Zealand and a recent U.S. citizen, the city said. He played multiple musical instruments and held college degrees in religious studies and sociology. He joined the Harbor Patrol in May but had been a reserve firefighter on Catalina for five years and a dive instructor for 10.

The body of a second man was found after the storm. His identity and details of his death are not known at this time.

Twitter: @JosephSerna@AmyTheHub

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