Two police officers patrolling the beach in an SUV ran over and killed a sunbather Monday, authorities said.
The officers in the patrol vehicle did not immediately realize they ran over the woman and continued driving, police Cmdr. Tom Chronister said in a statement.
A witness called the Oxnard Fire Department to report the woman was bleeding on the beach just south of the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort. The woman appeared to be in her 30's and carried no identification, said Ventura County senior deputy medical examiner Mike Feiler.
The officers, who were not immediately identified, had stopped on a small berm of sand to observe a swimmer whom they thought was in distress. When they saw the swimmer was fine, they drove over the berm and apparently struck the woman, who was lying about a foot from the berm's downward slope, authorities said.
The tires ran over her head, Feiler said.
"Given the soft nature of the sand and the size of the vehicle, it would have been easy for them to not sense that they had ran over something," Feiler said, adding the officers likely couldn't see the woman at the bottom of the berm.
An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday. The officers have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation into the incident.
Authorities believe the woman may have been a hotel guest since her towel belonged to the Embassy Suites. No one had reported her missing as of Monday evening. A witness told police that a male companion left the woman and walked toward the hotel.
Police shut down a stretch of the beach to investigate. Oxnard is located about 55 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.