Skip to main content

VIDEO: 'Witch's cauldron'

A storm that lashed California’s Catalina Island with 40 mph winds and 8-foot seas last week caused the deaths of two men in unprotected Avalon Harbor as moored boats were driven to shore.

A liveaboard was found floating in the water on New Year’s Eve morning and a harbor patrol assistant, working from a patrol boat, was believed to have been killed when he became pinned between a boat he'd been trying to save and a concrete platform on shore.

A witness to the storm told a reporter for TV station KCAL that the wind was “like a witch’s cauldron.” The deaths left the small island town of Avalon shaken.

"We're not used to that," Harry Stiritz Jr., a former city treasurer, told the Los Angeles Times. "We lose boats every now and again. Not people."

Harbor patrol officer Tim Mitchell, 39, was on duty and died as he tried to save the King Neptune, a boat on which he also had served as a dive instructor for about 10 years, according to a statement from the local harbormaster.

A Celebration of Life is planned for Mitchell on Thursday.

Bruce Ryder, 53, who lived aboard his moored houseboat, was recovered floating in the water and declared dead at a local hospital.

"Unclear as to whether the force of the waves and the pitching of the boat caused him to fall off his boat or if he voluntarily jumped off his boat," Sgt. Robert Berardi told ABC 7 News.