CASPAR, Calif. (AP) — Three men died on Sunday after entering the choppy water off Northern California to dive for abalone, authorities said.
The men were among a group of five divers who went searching for the prized mollusks in Caspar Cove when they found themselves in rough waves, Mendocino Fire Capt. Sally Swan said.
An off-duty firefighter who was fishing in the area saw them struggling in the water and called for help.
She said the bodies of two divers were pulled from the water and the body of a third man was found after sundown in a small cove after a nearly five-hour search.
Crews on a rescue boat picked up two men who managed to get to a rocky area.
The three dead men were the first casualties of the abalone season which began on April 1. Swan said the men were part of a group of 10 friends from the San Francisco Bay Area and the East Coast who were renting a vacation home near the cove.
Abalone are prized by seafood lovers and fetch high prices. However, the hunt for snail-like mollusks can be treacherous in the rugged coastline north of San Francisco and each season is marked by numerous rescues and several fatalities.