A big rogue wave slammed onto beachgoers in Ventura on Thursday, and video captured the horrific moment.
The event occurred while the Southern California shoreline was being braced for a big swell this week.
Around 11 a.m., a rogue wave drowned bystanders at Pierpont Beach on Seaward Avenue. The National Weather Service described the damage to that area as “tremendous wave energy.”
Colin Hoag, a witness, caught a mobile phone video of the thunderous wave. People and vehicles were carried away when the waves unexpectedly swamped an observation zone.
Beachgoers were spotted fleeing for their lives in a panic. On its deadly route, the raging waters shattered the windows of nearby coastal buildings and hotels.
Paramedics brought nine patients to the hospital. According to witnesses, numerous individuals suffered shattered bones and were slammed into street poles. Among those injured were guests sleeping at a coastal hotel. On Thursday night, two of the victims were still in critical condition.
“It was horrific,” Hoag said. ‘There was a lot of yelling and screaming. I had no idea how far [the wave] would travel. “I thought to myself, ‘This looks like a tsunami.’”
“I think a lot of lessons were learned today when you look at that video,” Ventura County Fire Department’s Andy VanSciver said. “The importance of heeding the warnings, about giving the ocean some respect.”
According to the NWS, the largest risk of dangerous high surf and floods is in Ventura County, as well as Hermosa, Manhattan, and Palos Verdes beaches.
Waves of 10 to 15 feet are forecast along the Ventura County shoreline, with sets of up to 20 feet. From 4 a.m. Thursday to 10 p.m. Saturday, a high surf warning and coastal flood alert are in force.
Despite the warnings, tourists continued to congregate on the beach and swim in the ocean, according to police. When rescue services weren’t dealing with individuals on the ground, they were rescuing surfers and swimmers who had attempted but failed to brave the deadly seas.
“We ask people to stay out of the water because it puts rescuers in danger,” Ventura County Fire Capt. Brian McGrath added. “The sea, it’s unforgiving and we know what to expect.”
Meteorologists warned towns throughout the central and southern California coasts about coming threats such as monster waves, life-threatening rip currents, destructive coastal floods, and substantial beach erosion all week.
The heavy surf is expected to last until late Saturday night as residents begin to repair and reconstruct the destroyed coastal businesses in Ventura.
Over the next three days, county firemen will be patrolling the beaches frequently. To help defend the beach, crews will construct a mile-long sand embankment 6 to 8 feet high.
At this time, all Ventura County beaches including the Ventura Pier will remain closed.
Public safety officials are urging people to keep out of the water and away from the shoreline, especially after the devastation wrought by the rogue wave.