A California man is presumed dead after he apparently tried to jump across one of the West Coast's most "terrifying and majestic" natural wonders. Per an Oregon State Police statement, state troopers and emergency personnel responded to calls Thursday afternoon regarding a person who'd fallen into the ocean. An initial probe uncovered that 67-year-old Steve Allen of Walnut Creek had tried to leap across Devils Churn, a narrow, perilous rock chasm on the Pacific Coast filled with churning waves and "extremely dangerous riptides," per NBC News.
Yachats News reports that Allen was with his wife, Linda, when he attempted to jump a 3- to 4-foot-wide gap from the south side of the inlet to the north side around 2pm, right before high tide. "It looks like you can jump across, but the other side is steep and slick," says witness Andy Nelson, who was visiting the area that day with his college-age son. "He just missed his footing and fell back into the water." Nelson, his son, and about a half-dozen other bystanders crafted a DIY rescue line out of a dog leash, belts, and shirts and lowered it into the chasm.
Allen was able to grab onto it—all while his would-be rescuers formed a human chain to keep themselves from falling in—then onto a life ring that a park ranger threw in. But Nelson says Allen had what appeared to be a "pretty big" head injury and wasn't able to keep his grip. "It was cold ... he was struggling," Nelson says, noting that Allen had been in the water for about a half-hour at that point. "And then it became hard for him to hold on. Then he let go. It was too late."
When rescue agencies last spotted Allen floating in the water, he appeared "unresponsive," per the OSP release. Nelson notes to Yachats News that Allen's attempted crossing wasn't some kind of stunt or other form of bravado, but simply "an innocent mistake." The agencies trying to find Allen, including the police, local fire departments, and the US Coast Guard, called off the search around 6:40pm and declared Allen as presumed dead, per the OSP release. (Read more Oregon stories.)