Missing diver found dead days after rip current swept him away from group, CA cops say

Screengrab from Zach Nelson's Facebook page

A missing diver who disappeared after a rip current swept him away from his group has been found dead, California authorities said.

Zachary Nelson, 27, of Newark, entered the water off Fan Shell Beach in Pebble Beach on Jan. 28 with three other scuba divers, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office said.

The group, however, decided to call off the dive “due to equipment issues.”

While three of the divers made it to shore, Nelson “was struggling in the surf about 100 meters offshore,” the sheriff’s office said. A large wave hit him, sending him underwater before he never resurfaced.

Multiple agencies, including the sheriff’s office, California State Parks Lifeguards and U.S. Coast Guard, searched the waters for Nelson, the sheriff’s office said.

After a two-hour search, efforts to find Nelson were called off as it grew dark, the sheriff’s office said.

The following day, the sheriff’s office said its dive team and U.S. Coast Guard continued to search the area.

Search operations were called off shortly after noon because of “high surf and deteriorating weather and water conditions,” deputies said.

Five days later, human remains were found on Fan Shell Beach’s northern area, the sheriff’s office said.

The coroner identified the remains as Nelson, the sheriff’s office said.

Rip currents are “powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water” that happen on the coasts of the U.S. and in the Great Lakes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

About 100 people are killed by rip currents each year in the U.S., NOAA reported. Lifeguards rescue thousands of people from rip currents annually.

Experts say people can take steps to stay safe from rip currents, including:

  • Check the local water conditions before getting in.

  • Talk to a lifeguard at the beach about the conditions.

  • Only swim at beaches where lifeguards are present.

  • Don’t assume great weather means good swimming conditions.

Pebble Beach is about 75 miles southwest of San Jose.

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