Two friends visiting northern California and fishing for abalone–a lucrative mollusc delicacy–were caught off guard while when a tide came in that forced the men up a sheer rock wall, one falling to his death 75 feet below. The incident is the fourth abalone-related death in the Mendocino region since the red abalone season began April 1.
52-year-old Joel Falcon and a friend had climbed down to a cove at low tide. A Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department release detailed that after they had been searching the shallows for abalone for hours, the tide rose extremely quickly, leaving the men unable to return using their original route.
Fearing deadly exposure to the cold water, the two chose to attempt escape by climbing a steep cliff. However, the cliff proved to be too treacherous, and Falcon fell on the rocky shore below.
Falcon’s friend called 9-1-1 and attempted to resuscitate his friend, but emergency medical responders determined Falcon had succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
Westport Volunteer Fire Department personnel had to launch a technical rope rescue in order to recover the body.
The incident follows another similar fatal abalone hunting accident just 20 miles down the coast over a week before when five men found themselves in rough seas. Three died after being caught between two rock outcroppings. The other two were uninjured and released at the scene.
The area is known for world-renown red abalone hunting, but also the dangerous conditions that leave many injured and some dead each year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Cold, rough waters, poor visibility, fatigue and rip currents were noted among contributing dangers to abalone hunting in the area.
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