A diver described as a male in his 20s was paralyzed from the waist down Sunday when he dived into shallow water near the Malibu Pier and broke his neck, a fire department official said.
“He was diving from the sand into the ocean,” said Capt. Tim Podczeviensky of Malibu Fire Station 88. “He hit a shallow sandbar.”
Podczeviensky did not have further information about the accident, other than to confirm that the man was paralyzed from the waist down.
The tragic incident was among 15 major medical responses over the Fourth of July holiday weekend from July 4-7. Lifeguards made 288 rescues and answered 107 first aid calls as approximately 665,000 people visited Malibu beaches over the extended holiday.
“It was constant craziness the whole weekend,” said Lt. Jim Royal of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff ’s Station of the holiday activity.
Royal said deputies and the department’s beach team were out in full force for four days.
“We mainly had calls for drunk drivers, medical runs, people who consumed too much alcohol,” Royal said.
The peak day for visitors came on Thursday, July 4, when an estimated 214,000 people came to town. Four fireworks shows took place from offshore barges: one near Paradise Cove, one near the Malibu Colony, one near the Malibu Pier and one near Carbon Beach.
Each show started around 9 p.m., with clouds and smoke slightly obstructing some of the shows.
Approximately 118,000 visited Malibu last Friday, 174,000 on Saturday and 159,000 on Sunday, according to county lifeguards. The four-day totals average out to about 166,250 people per day. The sun shined for most of the weekend, with temperatures in the low 70s each day.
Last year’s Independence Day fell on a Wednesday, attracting 150,000 for a single-day mid-week celebration. This year, however, was different, as most celebrated a four-day break beginning July 4.
The lifeguard department estimates crowd totals using a variety of methods, Capt. Jeff Horn of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Headquarters at Zuma Beach said.
“It’s somewhat subjective,” Horn said. “We take a count of the cars that enter through the parking lots. We also do visual estimates and compare historical records. At the end of the weekend, it is a best guess.”
“We don’t have time to count each and every person,” he said.
Lifeguards are trained to estimate a crowd size from their towers. For example, the number of people situated between towers 3 and 4 is multiplied by the total number of towers along the beach, Horn explained.
Officials also receive data from parking attendants who tally the number of cars that park in beach lots. Totals are compared to historical attendance records for consistency and accuracy. Attendance records stretch back 50 years, according to Horn.
“Say if someone tells us there are 50,000 people on Dec. 14, and every other year there were only 12,000, we’ve got to know there is some kind of red flag there,” Horn said.
The Fourth of July weekend was the second weekend in a row Malibu was buzzing with beach visitors, as a heat wave June 28-30 brought an estimated 455,000 people to town, or approximately 151,800 per day.