Fatigued Diver Dies Returning to Shore


A scuba diver died from cardiac arrest after surfacing from an afternoon dive with his son in one of Laguna Beach’s most popular coves on Sunday, Sept. 29, lifeguards said Monday.

Paul Peto, of Yorba Linda, became unresponsive while diving, according to a coroner’s office statement.

A lifeguard stationed at Heisler Park’s Picnic Beach, who was on foot and watching the pair swim in towards Diver’s Cove, responded to the distress call by swimming out to the son, marine safety Lt. Scott Diederich said.

Once on the beach, the rescuing lifeguard began CPR since the 67-year-old diver wasn’t breathing and lacked a pulse, Diederich said. Other later-arriving lifeguards attempted to restart the diver’s heart with an external defibrillator. Though the diver was taken to Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach, he did not recover, Diederich said.

Sunday was the second diving death in Laguna Beach this year. In April, Mark Gibbs, 51, of Tustin, also died after becoming separated from a diving class and apparently running out of air while submerged in Shaw’s Cove, another favorite spot for scuba divers.

On Sunday, after the pair in full scuba gear surfaced about 100 yards offshore from Diver’s Cove the father informed his adult son he felt fatigue, Diederich said. The son was pulling his father back to shore when he lost consciousness about halfway in and  called for help from the water, Diederich said.

“His son did all the right things,” said Diederich, who noted “there was nothing hazardous in the surf conditions,” with surf of one to three feet, water at 65 degrees and air temperatures a toasty 80 degrees.

Sunday was also the last day lifeguard towers outside of Main Beach are to be staffed for the season. Guards made 17 rescues, and another 10 on Saturday, “highly unusual,” Diederich said for late September.

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