Inquiry Underway Over Diver’s Death

Share this:

The county coroner’s office has yet to determine why a 42-year-old man died this past Monday, July 19, at one of Laguna Beach’s most popular diving spots

Mark Montague, of Altadena, was pulled from the water by a lifeguard and two civilians, who responded to his girlfriend’s wave of distress about 50 yards offshore in Shaw’s Cove.

The pair, the only two divers in the water about 1 p.m., kicked out beyond the surfline and headed toward the cove’s north rocks, but never descended, said lifeguard chief Kevin Snow. “They weren’t doing anything noticeably different,” he said, compared to typical divers.

But when one diver motioned for help, Shaw’s Cove lifeguard Mitch Ridder called in to a dispatcher, grabbed his gear and ran for the sea, where surf conditions were calm and without rip currents. When Ridder reached Montague he was facedown in the water. Two other Samaritans on the beach joined him, helping strip off an estimated 40-pounds of scuba gear to move the diver quickly through the surf to the shoreline, Ridder said.

An off-duty nurse began CPR until he took over the task after obtaining a mask from the tower. “It was the first time I’ve had a true diver rescue,” said Ridder, 49, in his 33rd year as a seasonal, summer guard. “I completely relied on my training,” he said, and recalls how time slowed down during the rescue.

Responding guard supervisors and paramedics took over resuscitation efforts, but Montague did not respond.

“I know I did all I could do,” said Ridder, also a Festival of Arts photo exhibitor, who the following day manned the tower at St. Ann’s Beach. “My thoughts are about his family and friends and the shock they must be feeling.”

Montague’s death was the first water-related fatality on the Laguna shoreline since last August when a swimmer in Boat Canyon suffered a heart attack, Snow said. Should the cause of death be of a similar nature, the cause of death will not be ruled a diving or drowning accident, he said.

Montague was known as a technical wizard and was considered an invaluable problem-solver at Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, co-workers told the Pasadena Star News.

Laguna Beach lifeguard, marine safety, diver, scuba, dead, full arrest, Mitch Ridder, Diver's Cove.
Laguna Beach lifeguard, marine safety, diver, scuba, dead, full arrest, Mitch Ridder, Diver’s Cove.
Share this:
Firebrand Media LLC wants comments that advance the discussion, and we need your help to accomplish this mission. Debate and disagreement are welcomed on our platforms but do it with respect. We won't censor comments we disagree with. Viewpoints from across the political spectrum are welcome here. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, our community is not obliged to host all comments shared on its website or social media pages, including:
  • Hate speech that is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic slurs, or calls for violence against a particular type of person.
  • Obscenity and excessive cursing.
  • Libelous language, whether or not the writer knows what they're saying is false.
We require users to provide their true full name, including first and last names, as a condition for comments. We reserve the right to change this policy based on future developments.

Scroll down to comment on this post.


  1. There is a legend about a halibut the length of two football fields. Every so often a diver will see one of her eye balls staring at him and then their heart stops from the mind not reasoning what was seen.

    I’ve seen a grey slip underneath me when I’ve been sitting over a shelf on my board and that alone is enough to make you think how big the Pacific Ocean really is…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here