Indian American Aarti Senthilvel, 47, of Pleasanton, California, died on July 1 while trying to save her friends and family from a rip current at Cowell Ranch State Beach in California, said reports.
Senthilvel’s brother-in-law told the Mercury News that she and 10 others were standing ankle-deep in the calm water at about 6:30 p.m., when sneaker waves and an undertow swept them away out to sea. She was trying to snap photos at that time.
According to multiple news reports, Senthilvel saved at least one teenager.
The group formed a human chain to save themselves from going under and while attending to the children, they realized that Senthilvel had not been rescued yet.
When emergency personnel arrived at the scene, they were able to pull Senthilvel out of the water but failed to revive her, according to San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Rosemerry Blankswade.
California State Parks Public Safety Superintendent Bill Wolcott told Mercury News that though the waves were small on Sunday, ocean currents can always pose a risk.
Bill Wolcott, public safety superintendent for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, said a “chaotic scene” followed after the first set of people within the group of six adults and six children were swept into the ocean.
“As the chaotic scene unfolded, as many as seven people were in the water,” Wolcott told the San Francisco Chronicle. “As is often the case, people who rushed into the water to help others became victims themselves.”
Once in the water, Senthilvel was steadily taken away from the beach due to the strong undertow.
Senthilvel was a mother of two who volunteered her time at an elementary school in her hometown.
According to her brother-in-law, she also volunteered her time at her children’s high schools and was active in the community as a classically trained dancer.