Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Oct. 6 @ 1:31 p.m.
Victim in Last Week's Water Rescue Identified; CC Harbor District Calls for Better Signs, Financial Consequences For Those Who 'Get In Trouble';
About a week first responders were called out for a man swept from the jetty in Crescent City, harbor commissioners stated that, though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the owner, they will ask the city to assist in placing new signs.
Crescent City Harbor District Board President Brian Stone also suggested asking the city to consider an ordinance or resolution “to the effect, if individuals get in trouble, they have to pay for it.”
Harbormaster Tim Petrick said he reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers to notify them that their warning signs at the entrance to the north jetty are rusted out and at least one is missing. The Army Corps was aware of that, he told commissioners Tuesday.
Petrick suggested writing a letter to the Army Corps explaining the need to deter people from placing themselves in extreme danger.
“It only takes three inches of moving water to knock a person off their feet and frequently, curing these winter swells, we’ll have spray going 20 feet in the air over the top of the jetty,” he said. “Definitely more signage is necessary. There’s not really any other way to stop people from going on the jetty. Signage is the best we can do to let them know of the danger.”
On Sept. 28, the Del Norte County Sheriff's boating unit retrieved 43-year-old Reuben Cha, of Los Angeles, from the water between the north jetty and the B Street pier, according to Sheriff Randy Waltz. While performing CPR on Cha, deputies brought him to an ambulance at the harbor where he was pronounced deceased, Waltz told the Outpost on Wednesday.
According to Waltz, there were conflicting reports of whether Cha was on the jetty or had walked into the water from the beach.
"I don't think that we concluded exactly where he was when he went into the water," Waltz said. "He was in between the pier and the jetty."
Crescent City Police, Del Norte Ambulance and Crescent City Fire and Rescue also responded to the incident, Waltz said. Toxicology results are pending, he said.
On Tuesday, Petrick suggested that the Harbor District could contribute to the cost of placing new signs at the jetty entrance.
Commissioner Harry Adams also suggested a sign that lists the number of people who were killed.
Adams’ colleague, Rick Shepherd said in addition to placing new warning signs at entrance to the jetty, those who need to be rescued should pay a penalty for that rescue.
“A lot of times it jeopardizes our search and rescue (folks) to go out there and try to rescue people,” he said.
Under California Government Code 26614.6 and 26614.7, a city or county that conducts a search and rescue effort of a person 16 years or older can bill for costs incurred during that operation if the person knowingly violated a federal, state or local law or if they showed “wanton and reckless misconduct or disregard for his or her safety.”
However, a city or county cannot collect charges from people they deem are unable to pay and shall not bill a resident who needed rescue more than $12,000, according to state law. The county or city and county may only seek reimbursement for a rescue if their governing body passes an ordinance consistent with the state government code.
Stone, referencing the state law, said commissioners also wanted a sign at the end of the jetty warning people that they may be charged if they need to be rescued. However, before that happens Harbor District staff will need to speak with its attorney to determine if a city ordinance or resolution imposing a penalty on those needing to be rescued from the jetty is a viable option, Stone said.
Stone, noting that a portion of the jetty is also within the Crescent City Harbor District’s boundaries, said commissioners would have to vote on a similar ordinance.
“The wheels are turning, but that’s going to take some time,” he told the Outpost. “Most likely it will come to the (Harbor) board at the next meeting or the one after that.”
On Tuesday, former Del Norte County supervisor, Roger Gitlin, mentioned a meeting seven years ago with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers general from San Francisco, who visited Crescent City and toured the jetty.
During that meeting, Gitlin said, people were climbing around the fence and walking down the jetty in front of the general, who warned them that venturing out there was dangerous. Gitlin said he was pessimistic about how effective those signs would be.
“You can’t fix stupid,” he said. “They’re out there right now. People are walking on the jetty and, in some cases, they walk out as a dare when the waves are at high tide and they’re crashing over.”
On Wednesday, Waltz told the Outpost that he has heard of agencies billing people for rescues that were deemed unnecessary, but he's not sure if it's something Del Norte County would consider.