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.