WATSONVILLE -- Sunny weather helped draw hordes of visitors to Santa Cruz County during Labor Day weekend, but the holiday was marred by the death of a Santa Cruz County woman who was pulled from the surf off Palm Beach.
About 10 a.m. Monday, a woman in her late 30s was swimming without a wetsuit in 5- to 6-foot waves on the south end of Sunset State Beach, said State Parks Supervising Lifeguard Dan Perry. Someone on the beach saw her struggling in a rip current, and witnesses said she showed signs of stress and "went face down in the water," Perry said.
Pushed in by the waves, a person on the beach pulled the woman to shore and tried to resuscitate her as a State Parks ranger arrived and also provided medical attention.
American Medical Response and Aptos/La Selva firefighters arrived, and she was taken to Watsonville Community Hospital where she later died, authorities said. An autopsy has not yet been performed to determine her cause of death.
Although the woman was swimming near a lifeguard tower, it was closed and not staffed until 11 a.m., Perry said. Signs showed the tower was closed.
"It can be very dangerous beach conditions down there," Perry said.
Lifeguards advised swimmers to swim near staffed lifeguard towers and never swim in ocean conditions above your ability. With a southwest swell in the water, State Parks lifeguards also made about 15 other ocean rescues on South County beaches on Monday, Perry said.
"We had a really busy day," said Perry.
In the city of Santa Cruz, the hot weather and an afternoon high tide prompted lifeguards to make nearly 2,000 preventative contacts among about 30,000 visitors at city beaches during the holiday weekend, said Santa Cruz Fire Marine Safety Capt. Josh Coleman.
"It's not been like Memorial Day or July Fourth, but it's definitely been busy," Coleman said Monday evening.
Main Beach was the busiest area, Coleman said.
"We're telling them (swimmers) to look out for rip currents and hazards in the area. We had a handful of rescues, grabbing people who were not making progress in the water," he said.
About 3:45 p.m. Sunday near Mitchell's Cove, lifeguards were called for two girl surfers who briefly had trouble getting to the beach. They made their way in on their own and did not require medical attention, Coleman said.
In the San Lorenzo Valley on Monday, emergency responders also helped rescue a woman of about 20 who fell from rocks at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park about 4 p.m. Authorities did not know the extent of the woman's injuries, but she was taken by helicopter from the park to a Santa Clara County hospital Monday afternoon.
"It's been busy today," Felton Fire Chief Ron Rickabaugh said Monday. "But overall the weekend hasn't been too busy." Drivers also faced traffic in many parts of Santa Cruz County on Sunday and Monday, including a backup from a crash that injured nine people on Highway 1 Sunday afternoon.
About 5:05 p.m., a 38-year-old Concord man was driving a silver Volkswagen north on Highway 1 near Bonny Doon Road when he collided with a Honda also headed north that was turning into a parking area, said CHP Sgt. Ryan Monahan.
The Honda also struck a Toyota and a parked Acura in the crash, authorities said. No one suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash, Monahan said, but two people were taken by helicopter to Stanford Medical Center and seven more people were taken by ambulance to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.
The speed of the Volkswagen appeared to be the cause of the crash, according to the CHP. No one was arrested.
To keep intoxicated drivers in check, CHP officers also conducted a DUI checkpoint from 9 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday at Capitola Road and 16th Avenue in Capitola. Two drivers were arrested on suspicion of DUI, Monahan said.
Firefighters also responded to a quarter-acre wildfire in Bonny Doon on Monday.
About 4 p.m., utility wires fell and started a tree fire on the 300 block of Shake Mill Road in Bonny Doon, said Cal Fire Engineer Eva Grady.
Cal Fire and Bonny Doon firefighters contained it, and no one was injured and no buildings were burned, Grady said.
In Capitola, thousands flocked to the final day of the Begonia Festival on Labor Day.
Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante said he was pleased with a safe, "family atmosphere" Sunday night and Monday.
"There were a lot of people," Escalante said. "We had a good weekend."
Contact Stephen Baxter at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @sbaxter_sc.