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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : SEAL BEACH

Recent Death Rare Occurrence on City's Beach

Weekend Drowning Only Third Loss While Lifeguards Working in 30 Years

August 08, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The drowning of a 50-year-old Los Angeles woman in Seal Beach early Saturday evening is one of only three water-related deaths that have occurred at the beach while lifeguards were on duty in the last 30 years, a lifeguard spokesman said.

A lifeguard lieutenant said that considering many of the 2 million people who visit the beach every year have little or no swimming ability, especially ocean-swimming skills, it's fortunate the numbers are not higher.

Lifeguard Lt. Ross Pounds said two lifeguards were on duty just before 8 p.m. Saturday when Magdalena Ramos was pulled unconscious from the waters off Seal Beach Pier. Witnesses on the pier saw Ramos struggling about 60 yards from shore after she lost hold of a floatable foam boogie board.

Pounds said that without a coroner's report, a specific cause for the drowning could not be determined.

"Typically, there is something else involved, such as a medical condition," Ross said.

The relatively low number of drownings at Seal Beach can be attributed to several factors, Pounds said.

"We don't have as strong currents and the bigger swells seem to occur" at other county beaches, he said. "We are kind of tucked in here."

The city's beach is protected from larger swells by breakwaters for Long Beach Harbor to the north and Anaheim Bay to the south. But south swells can hit the beach straight on, resulting in busy days for lifeguards.

The conditions were not exceptionally hazardous during the time of the recent drowning, Pounds said.

Until three years ago, there were no lifeguards on duty after 6 p.m. Now, two lifeguards from a summer staff of 40 are assigned to work until 8 p.m. On a typical summer day, 18 to 22 lifeguards are assigned. There is one main tower headquarters next to the pier and seven lifeguard stands.

For the department, much of the focus during busy times is on keeping harbor traffic away from swimmers, surfers and windsurfers. The last drowning during lifeguard duty hours occurred on July 4, 1989.

Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974.

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