Updated at 2:16 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2014

A City of Avalon Harbor Patrol officer was crushed to death between a boat and a rock during a storm on Santa Catalina Island, and another man was found floating in the water and died at a hospital, firefighters said Wednesday.

At lest three large boats broke free from their moorings as gale-force winds suddenly roared into the harbor, and huge waves crashed ashore on the normally-placid crescent beach at Avalon.

Witnesses told TV reporters at the island that the Harbor Patrol officer was an Avalon resident trying to save a dive boat, the King Neptune, from sinking.

“Deputies from Avalon Station and personnel from the City of Avalon Harbor Department were working together to secure the loosed boats,” a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

“One of the Harbor Department’s boats came perilously close to hitting rocks, so one of the patrolmen jumped from the vessel to get to safety,” the statement said. “Two deputies attempted to rescue him from the water but were unsuccessful. The patrolman became lodged between the vessel and the rocks under the turbulent waves and could not be reached.”

The patrolman’s body was recovered by divers about 11 a.m., the sheriff’s department reported.

During the storm, part of a pier on Avalon’s beach was snapped off, and debris was seen in the roiling water, helicopter video showed today. Three pleasure boats were hard on their side on the beach, one apparently smashed by rocks.

The accident occurred next to the Green Pleasure Pier, according to the sheriff’s department, which sent homicide detectives to the scene. His name was not made public while his relatives were notified, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.

About 6:30 a.m., sheriff’s Avalon Station personnel received a call of a body found in the water, the sheriff’s department reported. The dead man was in his 50s, Winter said. His name was withheld, pending notification of his relatives.

At the time of the fatal incident there were northeast winds sustained at 36 miles per hour, with gusts to 43 mph, and there were 4- to 8-foot seas inside the harbor. The large cove is not protected from waves washing in from the northeast, and thus vulnerable to the brunt of the storm.

The City of Avalon was advising against boating across the San Pedro Channel today, except by ferry. Catalina Express said its fleet was on schedule, but passengers were advised to expect “a bumpy ride,” a spokeswoman said.

— City News Service

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