ALAMEDA -- A 57-year-old man drowned Monday afternoon after walking fully clothed into the surf at an Alameda beach and wading in the chilly bay water for nearly an hour, authorities said.
Witnesses said the Alameda man, whose name was not released pending notification of relatives, paced back and forth for several minutes, then walked out into the waves around 11:30 a.m. at a stretch of beach along Shoreline Drive near the Willow Street intersection, raising his arms in the air in chest-deep water for nearly an hour and eventually floating out to about 150 yards from the coast.
Alameda police and fire were called, and subsequently notified the U.S. Coast Guard.
Witnesses said Alameda police and fire crews responded to the scene quickly, but watched from the shore as the man bobbed in the water.
According to a statement released by the police Monday evening, "(the) Alameda Fire Department does not currently have, and is not certified, in land-based water rescues. The city of Alameda primarily relies on the United States Coast Guard for these types of events."
Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson said, "We launched a small boat from San Francisco and our helicopter, but the boat was unable to get to the man at that location because it was too shallow for the boat to get through. Our helicopter arrived and spotted the man in the water."
Although the boat arrived in just 20 minutes, it took 65 minutes for the chopper to make it on scene because it was out on another mission and had to refuel, police said.
From the helicopter, Coast Guard personnel also saw a woman -- described as an avid swimmer in her late 20s -- swim out when the man was about 50 yards away and pull him to shore. Emergency crews waiting on the beach said the man was unresponsive when he was brought in and was then taken to Alameda Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The man had been in the water for about an hour, Swanson said.
At least two bystanders, including a kite surfer, tried to get to the man. The woman who swam out and pulled the man to shore told witnesses she was a nurse trained in water rescue.
"He was out there very far," said Alameda police Lt. Jill Ottaviano. "Conditions were very cold and choppy. It was a situation where you could see him bobbing up out of the water, then going under. Ultimately, he may have suffered from hypothermia. It was a very unfortunate situation."