Tragedy has yet again struck in Santa Cruz county when two UCSC students were fatally swept out to sea in late January when a rogue wave knocked the two and their three other friends off of the rock they were standing on at Bonny Doon beach. The victims were a twenty-five-year-old man and a nineteen-year-old woman.
The five students had been hiking around the area when a large wave knocked them off the rock they were on. The strong current pulled the two further out to sea, while the other three managed to swim to the base of a seventy-foot cliff, and were soon rescued by firefighters using a rope-pulley system to hoist the three of them up.
The other two were last seen in an ocean cave which the rough current dragged them into. It is believed that another wave then pulled them back out, and that they subsequently drowned.
The search for their bodies continued for three more days, but was finally called off after finding nothing. The U.S. Coast guard had helicopters and boats cover over forty-six square miles over a period of twenty-two hours.
A new update on the story came about on January 25, when the body of the woman washed ashore on Strawberry beach, four miles away from Bonny Doon beach. The woman, Shireen Ahsan, was spotted in the surf line by a passing bicyclist. The Coroner confirmed that the body was Shireen, and notified her family.
The man, Solamain Nourzaie, has not yet been discovered. It is likely that his body was dragged further out by the current, and was not washed ashore. The search for his body has since been continued.
The two students were avid members of UCSC’s Muslim Student’s Association as well, and will be dearly missed by friends and family alike.
However, there is always a lesson to be learned out of tragedy. Many people do not know the dangers and hazards presented by the ocean, nor do they know common safety tips.
The students had unwisely been hiking during stormy weather, with the matter of this year being an El Nino year adding to the danger. And almost anyone who has visited West Cliff or Davenport during the winter months can likely understand how massive the waves can get.
But the waves are not the only hazard at the beach. Deadly rip currents are regarded as one of the most dangerous tricks the ocean has in store, taking the lives of over 100 people each year. That is more than shark attacks, tornados and lightning strikes combined.
As beautiful and magnificent as the ocean may appear, the ocean is not always our friend. People underestimate the damage and harm the sea can cause, and it cannot be fought or contained.
The best tricks to stay safe when visiting West Cliff or Davenport are to stay away from the edges of the cliffs, which easily crumble, and large waves are known to crash directly on. Given the unpredictable nature of the sea, you should also never turn your back to it, as a wave or strong current can easily sneak up on you. Finally, if you ever find yourself caught in a rip current, swim at an angle away from it, and try to reach the shore.
Many of us enjoy the sights of the great Pacific Ocean that we are lucky to live nearby, but we must remember to stay safe while having fun.
By Michael Eshnaur