Fil-Am dies after paddle boarding accident in Huntington Beach

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Loved ones start fundraising page for funeral funds

A 26-YEAR-old Filipino-American man has died after drowning in a paddle boarding accident in Huntington Beach on Tuesday, July 18.

Jose Luis Mendoza of Lakewood, Calif. went paddle boarding with his brother that Tuesday afternoon. At around 3:30 p.m., Mendoza — who was not wearing a flotation device and did not know how to swim — fell off his rented paddle board near the 16500 block of Channel Lane, according to a press release provided by Huntington Beach Fire Captain Steven Teasdale.

When Mendoza did not resurface, his brother cried for help.

According to witnesses on the scene, nearby paddle boarders dived into the water to try to save him. But due to the high tide, Mendoza’s body had already gone too deep.

Rescue teams searched for his body through murky water conditions for 25 minutes before pulling his body onto the harbor, according to the Huntington Beach Fire Department.

Mendoza was in critical condition when he was rushed to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead at about 5 p.m., according to authorities.

At a vigil held two days after the accident, loved ones expressed sadness at the loss of a friend.

“It just hurts so much,” Josh Saldana, a friend, told NBC 4 News at the vigil. “He was honestly the most genuine, loving person ever. He could fill a room with laughter.”

A close friend of Mendoza, Heidi Kim, had been texting Mendoza moments before he went paddle boarding and urged him to wear a life vest, which is provided by the paddleboarding shop they rented from. Neither Mendoza nor his brother wore one.

Wearing a life vest is not required for paddleboarders who venture into enclosed bodies of water, like harbors or private swimming areas, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I told them to wear a vest, and he didn’t,” said Kim told NBC4 News. “That was the dumbest mistake he ever made; that was the last mistake he ever made.”

Just before his death, Mendoza became a certified physical therapy assistant.

The family and friends of Mendoza have set up a YouCaring crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for funeral costs: https://www.youcaring.com/joseluismendoza-880479. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)



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