Friday, August 10, 2007

2 men drown off Huntington Beach

We knew Ryan only briefly and wish his friend's and family all the best.

2 men drown off Huntington Beach

By Tami Abdollah and Garrett Therolf, Times Staff Writers
8:09 PM PDT, August 8, 2007

Two workers from a dirt motorcycle accessory company drowned just off Huntington Beach early Wednesday, their bodies spotted by surfers after an all-night search, officials said.

The men were among five people who went into the water after midnight just north of the Huntington Beach Pier, said Huntington Beach Police Lt. Craig Junginger. When their friends noticed the two men were missing, they notified the beach maintenance crew, which called police, officials said.

The victims were identified as Christopher Palmer of Long Beach, who died about a week before his 25th birthday, and Ryan Reid, 22, of Huntington Beach.

The cause of death is "presumed drowning" pending autopsies, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

All five members of the group had been drinking in the hours before entering the ocean, but they were not believed to be heavily intoxicated, said Huntington Beach Marine Safety Lt. Michael Baumgartner.

Ronnie Kimble said Palmer, his cousin, went far into the ocean in an attempt to save Reid. "If the ocean wants you, it's going to take you," Kimble said. "There's no fighting Mother Nature, but he died a hero."

The search involved lifeguards, five divers, two helicopters, boats and the Coast Guard's 41-foot search vessel, Baumgartner said.

Reid's body was found at 5:48 a.m., about half a mile north of the pier near 17th Street and Palmer's was found at 7:53 a.m. near Goldenwest Street, roughly a mile north of the pier, Baumgartner said.

The death of Palmer was especially shocking for his family because he was a strong swimmer who had been a lifeguard and was an experienced surfer. He also enjoyed dirt biking and skiing.

He worked with Reid at ASV Inventions of Huntington Beach, a maker of handles, levers and kickstands for dirt bikes.

Reid had started working for the company in recent weeks, and his family had seen the job as a turning point in his life.

"He just got his life together. He got a good job. He had struggled to live in the past with drinking, but things were getting better," said his cousin, 19-year-old Justin Reid.

The city beach closes about 10 p.m., Baumgartner said. Popular with surfers, the beach had low to normal surf breaking about 1 to 3 feet, Baumgartner said.

"The best we can say is there are rip currents on the beach, and it is possible they got caught in a rip current and drowned," he said. Rip currents are the No. 1 reason for ocean rescues in the country's coastal zones, Baumgartner said.

"Obviously, we love people to come to the beach to enjoy surfing and swimming," he said. "And to do it safely, we always recommend they come during the day to have lifeguards to help them out if they get into trouble."

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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