U.S. Coast Guard rescuers helped pull a man out of the water off Pacifica after he and a woman were swept out to sea Tuesday afternoon.
According to witnesses, the woman, dressed in a bathing suit, was wading ankle-deep in the water near the Pacifica Pier when a strong wave knocked her over. The man, in trying to hold onto and help her, was swept into the ocean as well.
The North County Fire Authority is unclear on when the incident occurred. The 60-year-old man was transported to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced deceased.
The San Mateo County Coroner's Office identified the man as Larry Moore, a resident of Pacifica.
The woman was conscious while being transported to the hospital, authorities said. A surfer who spotted her had helped her back to the beach.
A witness, Beth Grossman, said the duo was on the beach before a wave "grabbed" the woman. The man and woman held on to each briefly, but the water separated them.
"She let the riptide take her all the way out — she was floating way out there," Grossman said. "But I could see her head and I could also see her feet. She was just trying to relax and not fight it."
The man, on the other hand, Grossman said, kept "trying to fight it and get back up. And he actually got close to getting out like about three times but the wave just kept taking him back in."
Witnesses, including Grossman, called 911 and fire trucks arrived on scene, followed by the Coast Guard around 2 p.m.
A rescue swimmer tried to get into the water with flippers, but wasn't able to. "That's how strong the waves were," Grossman said. The Coast Guard got him up on a "line" attached to a helicopter and lowered him into the water so he could lift the man out of the ocean and get him onto the sand.
The man was then loaded into an ambulance, authorities said.
Grossman, who called the incident "really terrifying," said it served as a reminder to never underestimate the "power of the ocean."
"We were waving to her just to let her know that we knew she was out there," Grossman said. "Hopefully, she saw us and that gave her some hope to hang on."
NBC Bay Area's Rhea Mahbubani contributed to this report.