MITCHELL, Timothy (1975-2014), Avalon Harbor Patrol officer killed in a storm on December 30, 2014. Tim moved to Catalina Island in 2000 from New Zealand to pursue a career in the diving industry. He joined the Scuba Luv team in 2005 after working for a few other operations. In addition to being a harbor patrolman, he was also a reserve firefighter for the City of Avalon. He was 39 years old.
- “Scuba Luv is suffering the loss of longtime instructor-son, Tim Mitchell to a furious Nor’easter storm. While serving as an Avalon Harbor Department Patrolman, Tim courageously attempted to save the King Neptune as she parted four mooring lines and was swept to Step Beach. The resultant crash took Tim’s life. We will be in touch shortly regarding future plans in light of the loss of the King Neptune, but right now we are obviously grieving the loss of a son and sending our condolences to his family, en route from England and New Zealand.”
Of his death it was reported:
- “One of the patrolman jumped from the vessel to get to safety,” according to a sheriff’s department statement. “Two deputies attempted to rescue him from the water but were unsuccessful. The patrolman became lodged between the vessel and the rocks under the turbulent waves and could not be reached.” According to one local island resident, a crowd of 30 to 40 people saw the incident from shore and frantically tried to save the man, but were unable to do so.
In the News~
December 31, [LAT]: “The Los Angeles County coroner was called to Catalina Island today to recover two bodies. Officials said one was that of a Harbor Patrol officer killed during a fierce windstorm. Several boats became beached on Catalina on Tuesday night amid high winds, according to the National Weather Service. "I heard the harbor just took a beating last night. Boats were knocked loose," said Capt. John Kades of the Los Angeles County coroner's office. "A body was pulled out of the water." The circumstances of the second death were not immediately known.”
December 31, 2014 [CBSLA.com] “AVALON — Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives Wednesday were investigating two deaths in the Avalon Harbor. Officials responded to the Green Pleasure Pier around 3:30 a.m. to reports of injuries after high winds caused boats to be knocked over. A harbor patrolman was killed after being pinned between a boat and a rock, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. Another man’s body was found floating in the water nearby. It was unclear if the two deaths were related to the same incident.”
December 31, 2014 [shorelinemedia.net]: “AVALON, Calif. (AP) — Two people are dead and a third is missing after storm winds broke boats loose from moorings at Santa Catalina Island off the Southern California coast. Los Angeles County fire Chief Daryl Osby says one of the dead is a harbor patrol officer and the other is an unidentified citizen. The incident occurred late Tuesday night in Avalon Harbor, where three power boats are now aground along the waterfront. The National Weather Service says winds up to 40 mph hit the harbor.”
Dec. 31, 2014 [UPI] “AVALON, Calif. A harbor patrolman was killed as he tried to rescue boats during a violent windstorm that lashed Catalina Island off Southern California. The body of another man was found floating in the harbor, police said. Both deaths were believed to be related to the storm that hit the Los Angeles area Tuesday. John Etheridge, a resident of Fountain Valley, Calif., who also owns property on Catalina, described the storm as the most severe he has seen on the island. He said 30 to 40 people tried to come to the patrolman's aid after he was swept from a dive vessel, King Neptune. "It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen," Etheridge told KABC-TV. Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County coroner's department, said the patrolman was working to secure boats in Avalon Harbor late Tuesday when he was killed. "It appears that it was weather-related," Winter said. "There were boats that had broken loose from their moorings. He evidently got swept overboard and was pinned between the boat and rocks." Officials had not released the names of either man by noon Wednesday. The body of the patrolman was escorted to a helicopter by emergency vehicles. Winter said the second man died in a "water-related incident." Tom Quinn, a local resident, told KTLA-TV the patrolman was 27 and a "well-loved" man. He described the other victim as an experienced sailor. "All of a sudden, the wind just came," Quinn said as he sat in a harborfront bar Wednesday. "Mayhem was happening out here. ... Guys were dying." The storm also left scores of motorists stranded on roads in the San Bernardino Mountains near Los Angeles, where a foot of snow fell at high elevations, and whipped the entire area with high wind. The island, 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, is a popular resort for sailing enthusiasts. Movie star Natalie Wood drowned in mysterious circumstances in 1981 while she and her husband, Robert Wagner, were anchored off Two Harbors on their yacht, Splendour.”
December 31, 2014 : “Two men died Tuesday when fierce winds and big waves tore boats from their moorings and tossed vessels onto the rocky shore in one of the worst storms to hit Santa Catalina Island. Timothy Mitchell, 39, an Avalon Harbor Patrol officer, was crushed to death between a boat and a rock. Bruce Ryder, 53, was found floating in the water at 6:30 a.m. and died at a hospital, officials said. The Harbor Patrol officer died while trying to save a dive boat, the King Neptune, from sinking. He jumped off the boat as it came "perilously close" to striking rocks in the harbor, officials said. "The patrolman became lodged between the vessel and the rocks under the turbulent waves and could not be reached," the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. At least three boats broke from moorings as wind gusts up to 40 mph lashed the island and swells up to 8 feet crashed onto the beach. Catalina is about 20 miles off the coast of Southern California. The storm snapped a section of pier on Avalon's beach. Three pleasure boats lay hard on their side on the beach, one smashed by rocks. Don MacKenzie and Lois Laughlin were not on the boat they live in when the storm hit. "We tried to get on it, but thank God we really weren't," Lois Laughlin said. The cove was vulnerable in this storm because it's not protected from waves washing in from the northeast. Residents said it was the worst storm to hit in years. Kurt Kaplan, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, said cold, dense winds "crashed down" on the island harder and persisted longer than in recent memory. "It's rare to see one that strong," he said. Avalon's harbor patrol assigns moorings and provides security on the city's waterfront. The staff includes 11 harbor patrol officers, according to the city.”
January 2, 2015 [ecatalina.com]: “AVALON, CATALINA ISLAND - On December 30, 2014, the City of Avalon lost Harbor Patrol Officer Tim Mitchell, a hero and beloved member of the City family, who gave the ultimate sacrifice as he valiantly served the community defending life and property. Tim was on duty as a Harbor Patrol Assistant, working from a patrol boat, trying to protect residents, visitors and boats that were being battered by the fierce winds and waves that quickly and mercilessly descended upon Avalon Harbor. He died as he tried to save the King Neptune, a boat upon which he had also served as a Dive Instructor here on Catalina Island for approximately the past 10 years. Nearly 40 years old, Tim was a native of New Zealand, but a recent United States Citizen. He held joint degrees in Religious Studies and Sociology, and was an accomplished musician, playing multiple instruments. Tim recently joined the Harbor Department in May of this year. However, he had served the City for the past five years as a Reserve Firefighter. In addition to his City family, Tim also enjoyed a close, extended family at ScubaLuv - home of the King Neptune - where he worked as a Dive Instructor, and was looked up to by all of his peers. He was a "2nd father" to Bob and Tina Kennedy's children (Bob and Tina being the owners of ScubaLuv, of course). Tim leaves behind a mother, father, two brothers and Michelle Rodriguez, his girlfriend. He will be missed by all those who knew him. Our condolences to Tim's family - both biological and extended. Once we are aware when services will be held for Tim - and if anyone outside of family is invited to attend any of them - we will let you know. Please join me in acknowledging the tragic loss of one of our own family members - this hero, Tim Mitchell - and his ultimate sacrifice in serving the City of Avalon. Thank you, EVERYONE, for your prayers and condolences. For donations to the Mitchell Family, please make checks payable to the Avalon Harbor Employees Association, PO Box 1085, Avalon, CA 90704. By Avalon Harbor Master Brian Bray”
December 1, 2017 [TI/Avalon]: 1 “The city of Avalon will reveal a plaque to honor the memory of a harbor patrol officer who died in the line of duty in 2014 at a ceremony scheduled to be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7, at at Step Beach. Tim Mitchell served as a member of the city of Avalon Fire Reserves and as a Harbor Patrol officer. Mitchell lost his life on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, defending a boat that was ultimately destroyed by high seas caused by a nor’easter storm. Winds reached approximately 40 mph during the storm. At least six yachts were reportedly destroyed in Avalon Bay. Tim Mitchell served as a member of the city of Avalon Fire Reserves and as a Harbor Patrol officer. Mitchell lost his life on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, defending a boat that was ultimately destroyed by high seas caused by a nor’easter storm. Winds reached approximately 40 mph during the storm. At least six yachts were reportedly destroyed in Avalon Bay. A press release written by then-Harbor Master Brian Bray said, “(Mitchell) died as he tried to save the King Neptune, a boat upon which he had also served as a dive instructor here on Catalina Island for approximately the past 10 years. Nearly 40 years old, Tim was a native of New Zealand, but a recent United States citizen. Mitchell had joined the Avalon Harbor Patrol in May 2014.”