A man recently passed away, while scuba diving. He was with some friends off the northern part of the county coast. On Monday, the county sheriff’s officials identified the Rohnert Park man as CHP Lieutenant Jeffrey Alan Rhea, 54.
On Sunday, the Lieutenant was scuba diving in Gerstle Cove within the Salt Point State Park. One of his friends found him suddenly unresponsive, while floating at the surface, according to authorities. Rhea could not be revived, regardless a sustained effort in resuscitating him by friends, a state park ranger, including the lifeguards and a paramedic of the Sheriff’s Department.
Officer Jon Sloat, a CHP spokesman said Rhea was a Marine Corps veteran and a 27-year career with the CPH. He leaves 2 adult daughters behind, he Sloat added, sending their greatest sympathies to Rhea’s family. Commander Greg Baarts also attested that Rhea was a fundamental part of the CHP family, admitting he was a great loss for everyone in the command.
In 2009, Rhea joined the office, following his years of service in several areas of the state. In 1980, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, becoming a chief warrant officer, prior to his retirement from the reserves in the year 2011.
Sloat added that Rhea was authentic, a trustworthy guy that anyone can take him at his word. A supervising ranger with the parks, Jeremy Stinson said that he was told Rhea; along with his friends were skilled divers.
The Gerstle Cove has been a favorite diving spot for many because the cove is sheltered with minute influence from surf and wind. Stinson added that the cove has become a calm place for a wide range of divers.
On Sunday, however, it was windy, while the water was choppy. The overall condition was not ideal for diving. Meanwhile, the cause of Rhea’s death was not known immediately, just finding him unconscious in the water.
A nearby ranger at the state parks said he saw two divers swimming the victim to the shore. The 911 call came in at around 3 in the afternoon. The two divers assisted Rhea about 300 feet offshore in a certain area outside of the cove. Rhea was still in his scuba diving gear as well as his mouthpiece.
On Monday, Lieutenant Al Vernon of the county sheriff’s department said the coroner’s office is now conducting an independent investigation into the manner and cause of the former Marine Corp’s death.
Stinson added that Rhea’s scuba diving equipment, including his tank that is equipped with a computer was all submitted to the Sheriff’s Office for further review.
Rhea’s friends and colleagues have expressed their deep sympathies to the man’s family, saying that Rhea was a great man with integrity, a trustworthy person, and loved his work. Baarts reiterated his feelings of losing a hard-working man who has become a loving member of the CHP family, saying that Rhea was truly a great loss for everyone, not only in the workplace, but also in the local community.