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Diver dies despite friends' rescue efforts

A San Francisco man who died while abalone diving Sunday off the Sonoma Coast was identified as Robert T. Stewart, the Sonoma County Coroner?s Office reported Monday.

Stewart, 38, was the seventh person this year to die while abalone diving on the North Coast.

Early Sunday afternoon, Stewart and two friends had barely started their dive off of the Sea Ranch, when the man had trouble.

?His buddies told me that the three of them went out to go abalone diving. They entered at Shell Beach, started swimming out and within about a minute their friend complained he was really tired,? said Sgt. Eric Thomson, who responded to the call for help with the Sonoma County sheriff?s helicopter.

?So they escorted him to this rock about 100 yards off shore,? Thomson said.

They put his hand on the rock, telling him they would just rest. ?He just went unconscious,? Thomson was told.

The friends started yelling for help and pulled the unconscious man up onto the rock. A fisherman walking by heard them and called 911.

Because the man was out so far offshore, getting him to shore wasn?t easy and the helicopter crew was called.

Thomson said they arrived in about 15 minutes. They found the two friends conducting CPR on the man on the rock, being hit by waves.

The helicopter crew dangled a 100-foot line to the rock and plucked the man up and carried him to paramedics waiting at the end of a nearby Sea Ranch cul de sac.


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