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California family dies trying to rescue dog

SAN FRANCISCO — The search was called off Monday for a teenager whose parents were killed after they plunged into the cold, powerful surf in Northern California in a nightmarish chain of events that started when their son tried to save the family dog from drowning.

Eureka residents Mary Elena Scott, 57, and Howard Gregory Kuljian, 54, both drowned Saturday, said Ariel Gruenthal, a deputy coroner in Humboldt County. The boy, Gregory James Kuljian, has not been found and is presumed dead.

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Powerful, 10-foot waves had pulled the dog into the ocean Saturday as it ran to retrieve a stick at Big Lagoon, about 300 miles north of San Francisco, authorities said.

The 16-year-old boy went after the dog, prompting his father to attempt a rescue, said Dana Jones, a state parks district superintendent. The teenager was able to get out of the waves but then went back into the water with his mother in search of his father.

‘‘Both were dragged into the ocean,’’ said Jones, who added that the dog got out of the water on its own.

The couple’s daughter and the boy’s girlfriend watched the tragedy unfold. A bystander called police, but by the time help arrived, it was too late.

Jones said a park ranger had to run a half-mile to get to the beach because his car wasn’t made to handle the rugged terrain.

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When he arrived, he wasn’t able to get to the family members because of the high surf, she said.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Bernie Garrigan said the search for the teenager was stopped because a person without a wetsuit could not survive for long in the surf because of the frigid waters.

Saturday was overcast and a bit damp, and the winds were light at Big Lagoon beach, a steep shoreline where the waves roll in and crash onto the sand, making the area dangerous, officials said.

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