Heroic Police Can’t Save Drowning Man

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

July 14, 2022

Two Morro Bay police officers are being hailed for quick actions to try and save a man who fell into the bay and drowned.

At about 9:50 p.m. Friday, June 24, police received a 9-1-1 call to check the welfare of a man who had fallen into the bay and was being swept away by the current.

MBPD Cmdr. Amy Watkins said the report was of someone on a kayak who’d paddled out to a boat moored offshore off Estero Inn. The kayak capsized and the man went into the dark, cold and swiftly moving waters. 

Ofc. Will Marvos and Ofc. Daniel Palumbo responded to the call.

“They located the subject using a flashlight,” Cmdr. Watkins told Estero Bay News. “He was responding to their calls and the officers urged him to swim to shore.”

But the man was struggling. So the officers commandeered a skiff to go get him and then the engine wouldn’t start. So they grabbed paddles and set out after him. By some small miracle they found him but Cmdr. Watkins said he’d lost consciousness and had been face down for some time.

The officers were able to pull the man into the commandeered skiff and Cmdr. Watkins said they started CPR immediately.

Chief Harbor Patrol Officer, Becka Kelly, responded from home to get the patrol boat underway. She said there was a strong, out-going tide and she took three firefighter/paramedics rushing to the scene.

Officers and firefighters transferred the victim to the patrol boat and Kelly said she took them to the Yacht Club dock, and a waiting ambulance.

The victim’s pulse had been restored but he was unconscious.

The man, who has not been identified, went to the hospital as a John Doe and died a couple of days later, Cmdr. Watkins said. She was impressed with the actions of her officers.

“It was a large risk to the officers,” Cmdr. Watkins said, “because if they fell out of the skiff, with all the gear we wear, they would most likely sink.”

And trying to pull a limp body into a skiff isn’t something they train for at MBPD. “It is very difficult to pull a body out of the water. We don’t practice a lot of water rescues.”

One detail sticks out— the victim was not wearing a lifejacket, and Cmdr. Watkins said that had he been, he might not have drowned.

“With any water safety training,” She said, “they always have life preservers on. The officers gave this gentleman every opportunity to survive.” 

So who was he? Ah, therein lies the mystery. None of the emergency people on scene knew who he was but Kelly was sure however, that the man was not a local live aboard. 

“He wasn’t one of our people,” Kelly said. She added that they found a vehicle loaded up with personal belongings as if someone had been living in their car.

If readers knew the man who drowned, his name and history, email the details to: neil@esterobaynews.com and EBN will do a follow up report.

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