Darrell L. MacDonald attempted to save John J. Mattos from drowning, Moss Landing, California, April 9, 1961. While digging clams on a submerged sandbar in the Pacific Ocean, Mattos, 34, rancher, got into a runoff channel and called for help as he tried to stay afloat in water eight feet deep a 130 feet from shore. MacDonald, 27, student, waded and swam to Mattos. He took hold of Mattos and attempted to tow him shoreward but could make no progress against a strong undercurrent in the channel. As MacDonald and Mattos were carried farther from shore, three men made separate attempts to swim to them, but each was forced to return to the beach because of the rough surf. At the outer breaker line 250 feet from shore breakers six feet high twice swept Mattos from MacDonald’s grasp and submerged them briefly. MacDonald regained his hold each time and supported Mattos as they were carried into high swells beyond the breakers. Tiring rapidly, MacDonald trod water and drifted with the currents to 600 feet from shore with Mattos. Several boats moved into the area, but conditions forced some to turn back and kept others from approaching nearer than 400 feet. MacDonald, his arms and legs becoming stiff, renewed his efforts to tow Mattos shoreward. Aided at times by the swells, MacDonald with difficulty towed Mattos, who had become inert, back to the outer breaker line. A breaker separated them and submerged them briefly. MacDonald grasped the shirt of Mattos and maintained his hold as they again were submerged briefly by a breaker. Nearly exhausted, MacDonald swam with the aid of the breakers to 100 feet from shore, where he obtained footing. A man with a rope held by others on the beach then waded to them and took Mattos to shore. A breaker swept MacDonald to the beach. Mattos could not be revived.
45965 – 459445965-4594