Mission Bay

SDPD looks for witnesses, video after tween killed in Mission Bay jet-ski crash

The 18-year-old man from Bellflower, California, who was riding the jet ski was not hurt.

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It was 2 p.m. on a busy Saturday in July. It was hot and humid, and lots of people were on the beach and in the water at De Anza Cove in Mission Bay.

That’s when the worst happened: A jet-ski and a paddleboard collided. 

The 12-year-old girl on the paddleboard was fatally injured.  First responders rendered aid, but it wasn’t enough. The girl didn’t make it, dying later at a hospital.

The 18-year-old man from Bellflower, California, who was riding the jet ski was not hurt.

“This is a very big deal,” said San Diego Police Lieutenant Adam Sharki. “Anytime we have a loss of life — certainly the loss of life of a child — that’s a serious investigation, no different than a fatal collision or a homicide investigation, where a lot of work goes into making sure we get everything right.”

The SDPD Harbor Division is investigating the crash. Their probe will entail not only interviewing witnesses but also re-constructing the scene. 

“On a roadway, you have a debris field, you have scuffed tires,” Sharki explained. “On-the-water collision, those pieces of evidence aren’t there, so there’s other things the investigators do to reconstruct what happened.”

The accident could take weeks or months to complete.

Sharki declined to reveal the name of the victim, saying the family asked for privacy.  

Three days after the crash, Meera Agarwalla and her two daughters were in the bay balancing on a paddleboard.  Agarwalla has been paddleboarding for eight years, and said she and her husband started bringing the girls to Mission Bay when they were toddlers.

“I think safety is really the most crucial thing when you’re doing any sort of water activity — like getting the kids to know safety, how to swim safely and if they are going out there at a young age, just really knowing how to take care of yourself and not to venture out there too far, because you just can’t control other people and other activities that are going on,” said Agarwalla.

Agarwalla, who said she loves the adrenaline rush of jet skiing, said the riders of the personal watercraft are not always obeying the rules of behavior on the bay. Signs posted in the area remind people on watercraft to keep their speed less than 5 mph within 100 feet of any other vessel, the shoreline and swimmers. There are also special areas where jet skis and boats can go faster. Wake jumping and spraying by any personal watercraft is against the law.

“You see people who go in and out through the buoys, or they have certain speed limits and they don’t obey them,” said Agarwalla. “I think we just have to all around be very careful and be sure that you’re experienced, you know what you’re doing. and you use good judgement and good decisions.”

San Diego lifeguards declined our request for an interview on safety, but the rules are also listed on the city’s website.

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