Three young men drowned after being swept out to sea by a rogue wave while watching the surf from the rocky shore of Point Mugu.. Authorities say two other men in their group escaped with minor injuries.
The victims were identified as two brothers -- brothers Marcello Ramos Vasquez, 17, and Catalino Ramos Vasquez, 19 -- and a friend, Pedro Avila Ramos, 22. The three were all from Oxnard, according to the LA Times. The three were part of a group of five friends standing at the water's edge on Mugu Rock, taking pictures at about 1:50 p.m. when they realized the waves were strong, Shasta Gainer, deputy medical examiner at the Ventura County medical examiner's office, told the newspaper.
"They saw that the waves were strong, and they realized that it was dangerous, so they attempted to make their way back from the water lines," Gainer told the LA Times. "A big wave came and he (one of the survivors) told me all of them got knocked in the water and he told me he was lifted up by a swell and grabbed onto a rock."
Gainer said she did not know if any of the group could swim.
"It's very rocky. So it's not outside the realm of possibility that they hit their head on a rock," Gainer told the LA Times.
The bodies of the drowned men were recovered.
The wave struck just before 2 p.m. at Mugu Rock, a geological landmark that has appeared in the background of many TV shows, movies and car commercials.
A passerby, Kathryn Barrona, 24, dove into the water to attempt a rescue, and did succeed in bringing one of the young men back to shore, according to Ventura Sheriff's Senior Deputy Julie Novak. The bodies of the two other drowning victims were recovered from the air by a Sheriff's helicopter.
Barrona was visiting Point Mugu with her sister Samantha from Camarillo when they became aware of young men on the bluff motioning toward the water.
"All of a sudden, they started waving and pointing and panicking," said Samantha Barrona, during an interview with NBC Los Angeles.
The sisters had difficulty understanding the men, who were speaking in Spanish. But then they spotted one of the young men in trouble in the water, and that is when Kathryn Baronna swam out to attempt a rescue. Kathryn Barrona was a swimming standout while at Camarillo High School, and later served in the U.S. Navy. Despite her experience, she had difficulty getting back to shore. She attempted to administer CPR, but was too ill from the ocean water she had swallowed, according to her sister. Arriving emergency responders determined that the young man was already dead.
Deputy Novak praised Kathryn Barrona for her heroic efforts "without fear for her own safety," and said the Sheriff's Dept. would recommend a commendation.
In order to get to the rocky shore nearest where the young men were in the water, Samantha Barrona said she and her sister had to squeeze through a locked gate. The pathway around the base of Point Mugu has long been fenced off from public access for safety reasons, according to Sheriff's Senior Deputy Jason Stephens. It was not immediately clear how the young men had gotten out to the rocks below the fenced off area. But the fence does not extend all the way to the water. From a parking lot adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway, it is possible to walk along the rocks out to the point.