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Woman crushed to death by tractor on California beach

By Teri Figueroa, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - A woman lying on a Southern California beach was crushed to death when a large tractor ran over her Monday morning, a police spokesman said.

The victim may have been sleeping at the time, spokesman Tom Bussey said. She has not been identified.

The incident happened about 10 a.m. at Oceanside Harbor Beach , north of San Diego. Bussey said a couple of lifeguards witnessed it.

The Caterpillar tractor - working as part of the harbor dredging efforts - was going across the sand when the driver felt a bump, Bussey said. Initially, the driver thought he'd hit a dip, but turned around to check and discovered the woman on the sand.

About 10 or 15 minutes before the woman was killed, surf instructor John Daniels spotted her talking to city worker.

Daniels, who runs his LTR Surf instruction and rental business on that stretch of beach, said he keeps tabs on his surroundings so he grabbed his phone and recorded the brief encounter with a woman he suspected was homeless.

The short video, shot at 9:48 a.m. shows the woman in dark clothing lying on her side, facing the ocean. Next to her is a man in a golf cart who Daniels said works for the city.

Daniels said that after that encounter, the city worker came over to Daniels' pop-up tent near the water to greet him. According to Daniels, the city worker said he'd stopped to check on the woman and offer her water.

Daniels said he turned his attention back to his work and was talking with clients when he noticed commotion behind him. He turned and saw lifeguards laying a yellow tarp on the woman.

 

He said he ran to tell them that she'd been alive just moments earlier, thinking perhaps she had overdosed or suffered a medical issue.

Daniels said he was waved off, ordered to stay back. That's when he noticed the large tractor and deduced what had happened.

"At that point, there is nothing you can do," Daniels said.

An official with the company running the dredging project, Manson Construction Co., said a comment would be forthcoming.

Usually, the harbor is dredged in the spring. This is the second time this year that the harbor has been dredged, but it was necessary because areas near the jetty entrance to the harbor were as shallow as 8 feet.

But because of the pandemic, which led some of the workers to leave the job early, and storms and rough seas this year, only about 250,000 cubic yards were dredged in the spring. The goal was to remove up to 400,000 cubic feet of sand.

The sand is used to restore beaches on the south side of the city.

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