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La Jolla Cove Snorkeling Death Prompts Wrongful Death Lawsuit

— October 21, 2019

The city of San Diego recently came under fire in a wrongful death suit after a man died in a snorkeling accident.

A wrongful death lawsuit was recently filed against the city of San Diego over claims that the swimming area at La Jolla Cove is unsafe. According to the suit, lifeguards at the cove “can’t adequately watch or protect swimmers because the cove’s unusual topography creates dangerous hidden areas, not visible from lifeguard towers.” The suit itself was filed by the son of a man who died after a snorkeling accident at the cove and argues the city should do more to ensure there are enough lifeguards to properly oversee the swimming area. Additionally, the suit claims the city also needs “better located towers and warning signs in dangerous areas that are tough to see because of rock formations and other obstructions.”

City of San Diego
City of San Diego; image courtesy of MARELBU via Wikimedia Commons,

The man who died in the tragic snorkeling accident was Morteza Akbarzadegan. According to the suit, he was “snorkeling at the cove in July 2017 on a day when there were high waves that earlier had prompted lifeguards to clear people from the water.” When the lifeguards on duty felt it was safe for swimmers to enter the water, Akbarzadegan began snorkeling and turned up missing 10 minutes later. In response to the sudden disappearance, his son and wife began waving to the lifeguards for help, but due to the topography of the area, the lifeguards couldn’t see them. Eventually, two teens helped locate Akbarzadegan and brought him to shore, “where he got medical help from lifeguards and bystanders before being transported by ambulance to a hospital.” Unfortunately, he was “diagnosed with anoxic brain injury, which occurs when the brain is denied oxygen for too long.” For 10 months he was in a vegetative state until he passed away in May 2018.

In response to the allegations in the suit, lawyers representing the city said San Diego is not liable for injuries “caused by natural conditions of unimproved public property.” Additionally, they argue the city is not “responsible for injuries caused by participation in a hazardous recreational activity.” City Attorney Mara Elliott chimed in by saying, “This death was a tragedy, but under the law, taxpayers cannot be held responsible.”

Nevertheless, the lawsuit argues the city is to blame for the accident because “city officials engaged in willful misconduct by not providing adequate lifeguard coverage and not aiding swimmers in trouble in a timely fashion.” It further states “the city should post warning signs at the cove in areas where lifeguards can’t see or might struggle to see from their towers” and claims the city of San Diego “should have known it wasn’t adequately protecting swimmers at the cove and taken steps to boost safety there.”

La Jolla Cove is located near Coast Boulevard and is part of a preserve to protect marine life. Because of that, it is a popular destination among swimmers and snorkelers. However, the area is prone to large swells making the waters dangerous to swim in at times.


Snorkeling death at La Jolla Cove prompts lawsuit

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