California Man Drowns After Rescuing Niece During Storm

A man drowned Tuesday while rescuing his 4-year-old grandniece who was knocked off a jetty and into the ocean by a big wave, authorities said.

Rough surf was rolling ashore ahead of a Pacific storm approaching Southern California. The girl and her mother were watching big waves when the child was swept away, said Ventura County fire Capt. Barry Parker.

Timothy Barry, 54, jumped into the water off Pierpont Beach about 11 a.m. after hearing the girl's mother screaming for help, Parker said.

Barry reached the girl and kept her head above water until a surfer arrived and brought her to safety, Parker said. Lifeguards found Barry floating face down by the time they arrived.

"At the time he was pulled out of water, he was not breathing and did not have a pulse," Parker said.

About an hour later police and state lifeguards closed the Ventura Pier about a quarter-mile away because 10- to 12-foot waves were slapping its underside, said police Sgt. Jack Richards.

Flash-flood watches were in effect for areas denuded by this year's wildfires, including the 162,700-acre Day Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The storm was bringing a large swell into coastal waters and gale warnings and small craft advisories were expected to be issued.

"Mariners are urged to remain in safe harbor until this storm weakens completely," the NWS said.

After the rain, strong northerly winds were expected to develop, with offshore flow through and below passes and canyons in mountain and valley areas Thursday. Forecasters said gusts will exceed 75 mph in some wind-prone areas.