San Diego

Man Killed Trying to Rescue Dogs in High Surf was Former First Responder

A man who became caught in the jetty in Ocean Beach after attempting to rescue his dogs from the rough waters has died, authorities said Thursday.

Gregg Owens and his wife were walking on the Ocean Beach shoreline when their dogs were swept away by the ocean amid strong rip currents and high surf conditions Wednesday afternoon, according to the medical examiner's office. 

Owens, from Henderson, Nevada, went in after his pets and was able to grab the dogs but another wave caught him and slammed him against nearby rocks, the ME said. 

He was "struggling" for a while, said Sgt. Stirk with the San Diego Police Department.

When the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department responded to the area near Abbott Street and West Point Loma Boulevard just before 2 p.m., he was caught in the jetty, face down in the water and unresponsive, the ME said. 

Medics attempted to revive Owens for 10 minutes while transporting him to UCSD Medical Center's intensive care unit, where he was pronounced dead. 

When Owens was swept up by the strong tides, a National Weather Service high surf advisory was in effect for San Diego County beaches. During the advisory period, wave sets as tall as 14 feet were expected in the southern parts of the county. 

Owens was a former first responder. He spent 11 years with the Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad in Virginia as a paramedic and crew chief.

People from his station remembered him as a jokester who made everyone comfortable, but also as the kind of guy you wanted next to you in an emergency.

"I would say, unequivocally, through his service here to the organization and the community, he definitely impacted people's lives," Assistant Chief Byron Andrews said.

A sign was posted near the beach with Owens' and his wife initials in a heart with a thank you message to everyone who lent a hand in trying to save the man's life.

Dog walkers at the beach Thursday were sad to learn about Owens' passing. Some said they, too, would jump into the hazardous waters if their dog was carried away by a wave.

"If my dog went out in the water and I could tell he was in trouble I'd definitely go out and save him," David Rice said.

Austin Card said warning may not be enough to stop him from going after his dog.

"They tell you not to if your dog gets sucked out. They tell you not to go out there but personally I think I'd go for it," he said.

Contact Us