SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Three men drowned as they dived for abalone off the rocky coast of Northern California's Mendocino County after becoming trapped by pounding surf in a narrow channel, authorities said on Monday.
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said the accident happened after five men entered Caspar Anchorage Bay on Sunday afternoon to dive for red abalone, a large, edible mollusk hunted for sport along the coast north of San Francisco Bay.
Witnesses said rough waves made for poor diving conditions, with swells 7 to 8 feet tall, Sergeant Joseph Comer of the sheriff's office, said in a statement.
A fisherman alerted rescuers, who arrived by boat and helicopter and pulled two of the victims onto Caspar Beach, police said. Despite life-saving efforts, both were pronounced dead at the scene, Comer said. Four hours later, the body of the third victim was found floating in a nearby cove.
The other two divers were uninjured, police said.
Authorities identified the three dead as Tae Won Oh, 49, of Dublin, California, Hyun Kook Shin, 49, of Suwanee, Georgia, and a 53-year-old man from Fort Lee, New Jersey, whose name was withheld pending notification of his family.
(Reporting by Emmett Berg in San Francisco; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)