Coast Guard officials suspended their search off Ocean Beach for a man they believe may have died at sea after a distress call early Monday morning, warning that he was about to jump from his fishing boat and swim to shore.
Crews had been looking for Timothy Lybrand since 3:30 a.m. but called off the search at noon, after scouring an 18-square-mile area from the San Francisco beach to the Golden Gate Bridge and finding nothing. The boat was expected to be towed ashore on Tuesday morning.
"The decision to suspend a search and rescue case is always difficult,” said Coast Guard Capt. Mike Day, deputy commander. "Given the close proximity to shore, and the vessel operator's stated intention to abandon the vessel, as well as the extensive search effort by the Coast Guard, National Park Service and San Francisco Fire Department Battalion 7, I have made the decision to suspend the active search.”
Coast Guard Lt. Commander Shawn Lansing said Lybrand's friend, a commercial fisherman, notified authorities that Lybrand had called him to say he had just hit rocks and was planning to jump ship about 25 yards from shore. Officials said Lybrand was wearing a life vest. The Santa Cruz County Jail released a photo of Lybrand, and said there were no outstanding warrants against him. It wasn't immediately clear why he had been in jail.
San Francisco Battalion Chief Denise Newmann said Lybrand could have died of hypothermia if he was still in the water, and the search had become a recovery mission. "It's very cold out there," she said, noting temperatures were in the 50s.
The only way Lybrand could have survived, Newmann said, was if he had somehow swum to shore.
"We're all worried," said Larry Collins of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association. "Timmy's good people."
Throughout the morning, the abandoned fishing boat bobbed in the water near the shore, as crews walked the sandy beach. Crews were not sent into the water because the waves were too rough.
The fishing boat also had spilled some diesel fuel spilled into the water, but it wasn't immediately clear how much. The boat had a 400 gallon fuel tank.
The Oil Spill Liability Trust fund has been activated for removal of all pollutants from the grounded vessel. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Incident Management Division and National Park Service personnel are coordinating to ensure all fuels hazardous to the environment are removed from the vessel.
However, despite the smell of fumes, there were no reports of a sheen surrounding the vessel.
Anyone with information regarding the Paloma or Lybrand are asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center at 415-399-3547.