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Abalone diver presumed drowned off Sonoma Coast identified

An abalone diver whose body was pulled from the water off Gerstle Cove on the Sonoma Coast Sunday afternoon was identified as Dean Seki, 66, of Redwood City, Sonoma County sheriff’s coroner officials said Monday.

Witnesses said a large wave hit Seki around 1:30 p.m., and the force separated him from a kickboard in the water near Salt Point State Park, Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said.

Seki was seen fighting to stay afloat in the rough surf before he became unresponsive, Crum said.

Two kayakers paddled out to Seki and found him floating face down in the water. A state parks lifeguard helped bring the man to shore and the sheriff’s helicopter flew him from the beach up to the road above.

Crum said an autopsy has not yet been conducted and a cause of death was not yet officially determined.

Red abalone is a prized mollusk with buttery meat that lures divers to California’s rugged coastline each year during the season, which runs April to June and August to November. The hunt for abalone can be hazardous, requiring divers enter the water with wetsuits, weighted belts, a pry bar and little else.

Off the Mendocino Coast, three men have died while seeking abalone since May. Seki is the first diver to have perished in Sonoma Coast waters so far this season.

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

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