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Diver missing in rough surf off Salt Point State Park

Nightfall forced rescue divers to call off the search for an abalone diver who didn't surface Monday off the Sonoma Coast, fire officials said.

The man, who was not identified, was reported missing at about 5 p.m. off Fisk Mill Cove in Salt Point State Park by a companion who said he didn't come up for air, Timber Cove Fire Chief Michael Singer said.

The man was diving in the same location where several divers have gotten into trouble this year because of the conditions, including a 36-year-old San Francisco diver who died April 28 after getting caught in a rip tide.

Singer said he was told the missing diver is a Timber Cove area resident known by several emergency responders as divers and a Coast Guard boat searched the water. Singer said he didn't know the man's name.

At dawn Tuesday, a Coast Guard helicopter from San Francisco will return to the cove to conduct a first-light search, Coast Guard officials said.

State Park divers will also return to the cove early Tuesday and resume searching for the man, joined by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office search and rescue team which will search the coastline.

After the initial distress call came in Monday, three divers spent about an hour-and-a-half in the water looking for the man. They started from the man's dive float, where he was last seen.

But sea conditions were not ideal.

Long swells produced waves with great energy and strong rip tides. The National Weather Service earlier had issued a warning about hazardous conditions along Sonoma Coast beaches for Monday and today.

During Monday's search, the conditions kept the Coast Guard Bodega Bay's 47-foot lifeboat at a distance.

“Our vessel did a search pattern as close to shore as they could get,” said Petty Officer Franklin Carpenter, boatswain mate third class.

Cal Fire and Coast Guard helicopters were dispatched to the coast but fog kept aircraft from providing aid, he said

Singer said the cove is a popular abalone hunting ground.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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