Pictured: An HH65 Dolphin helicopter similar to the one the USCG used in the search on Nov. 29 and 30. 

by Kimberly Rivers
kimberly@vcreporter.com

Search crews from Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties are part of ongoing search and recovery efforts on Tuesday, Dec. 1, in the waters near the Painted Cave Preserve at Santa Cruz Island for missing diver Ryder Sturt, 34, of Port Hueneme. Online update: As of Wednesday, Dec. 2, the recovery effort continues led by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office. 

As of Tuesday, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the first agency to respond to requests for help on Sunday, has called off their search and rescue as the efforts have shifted to search and recovery. 

“Obviously that is what we hope for,” said Lt. Ben McIntyre with the USCG Long Beach Command Center, about the possibility of Sturt still being found alive. He explained, however, that based on time in the water and other factors, USCG has determined “the likelihood of surviving beyond where we are at now in the timeline is very negligible. If any evidence [is found] that the person is still alive we would reengage and use every one of our assets to render whatever help is necessary.” 

McIntyre clarified that the USCG “does not engage in search and recovery operations…the active search [and rescue] has been suspended.” 

On Sunday, Nov. 29, Sturt and a diving partner were tank diving for lobster from a 20 ft. recreational boat. When Sturt did not resurface, his partner called authorities for help. Sturt’s social media pages reveal he was a frequent diver, often snapping underwater photos of himself and the underwater environment. 

At about 6:45 p.m. on Sunday, the USCG Cutter Narwhal was the first vessel to respond to the call. Its crew searched the waters throughout Sunday night, while an air crew in a HH65 Dolphin helicopter out of Point Mugu searched from the air. McIntyre said the weather and water conditions have held steady since Sunday evening and are “optimal search conditions.” Wind is at about five knots, with two- to three-foot seas and 10 nautical miles of visibility. The air temperature is about 50 degrees, with water temperatures at about 58 degrees. 

On Monday, Nov. 30, USCG continued searching with additional crews in the water and air. McIntyre said that due to the length of the search, the Dolphin pilot exceeded the maximum “fatigue limit” of flight hours and a second helicopter, an HH60 Jayhawk, was called in from San Diego. 

Santa Barbara County Air Support Copter 964 was called in and conducted an aerial search for the missing diver and provided medical support for the search divers. At about 1:30 p.m. on Monday, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Underwater Search and Recovery Team arrived and conducted diving operations for three hours. At approximately 5 p.m. on Monday, rescue efforts were suspended by the USCG and command shifted to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBSO) for ongoing search and recovery. A statement from the SBSO reported that there is nothing suspicious about the incident.

As of Tuesday morning, the search and recovery efforts are ongoing with divers in the water.

The Search and Rescue Dive Team with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is assisting the Santa Barbara County Sheriff, the lead agency, in the search. Other agencies providing dive teams include Los Angeles Port Police, Los Angeles County Sheriff and the National Park Service. 

The USCG is maintaining a safety area of five miles in all directions for the recovery search efforts. 

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.