POINT MUGU STATE PARK — A Memorial Day barbecue turned tragic Monday afternoon when an Oxnard man died after being caught in a riptide off Point Mugu State Park, authorities said. The man's cousin was in critical condition after almost drowning while trying to rescue him.
Hansen Paialii, 44, was pronounced dead at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard and Alex Talili, 35, was in critical condition.
Pacific Coast Highway two miles south of Mugu Rock was closed for 30 minutes in both directions during the afternoon as rescuers loaded the men aboard a Ventura County Sheriff's Department helicopter for a flight to the hospital.
Witnesses said the pair were part of a large family gathering on Yung Hee Beach, a secluded county-owned area half a mile north of Deer Creek Road.
At 1:40 p.m. Paialii got caught up in the 3- to 5-foot surf and a riptide pulled him into a sharp rock formation about 50 yards offshore, officials said.
Talili went into the surf after him and was pounded against the rocks. Witnesses said he struggled for some time before being washed ashore.
Paialii was in cardiac arrest when firefighters arrived, said Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Mike Sidlinger. Paialii was pronounced dead shortly after 2:30 p.m.