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California man drowns trying to save wife, dog from big waves

Ben Margot / AP

A couple walks along North Beach as a helicopter searches for Charles Quaid at Point Reyes National Seashore, Calif.

A California man who waded into choppy waves to rescue his wife and dog drowned after he was swept out to sea on New Year's day.

Charles Quaid, 59, entered the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore after his wife and dog became caught in tumultuous waves, Marin County Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Giannini confirmed to NBC News.

The undertow and rip currents at the beach were so powerful they "would challenge even the strongest swimmers," Giannini said.

Good Samaritans helped wrench Quaid's wife from the 10-to-12-foot waves, according to Giannini, and the family's dog returned to shore unharmed.

But Quaid was dragged more than a half-mile off shore, and police were called shortly after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Giannini said.

Emergency response crews from the fire department, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service searched for Quaid for hours before rescuers on jet skis found his body at 4 p.m. A paramedic pronounced Quaid dead soon after, Giannini said.

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Quaid's body was transferred to the county coroner's office. Quaid's wife was evaluated by a medical team and released with no injuries. 

Quaid's death marks the second time in just over a month that a California family met a tragic end after trying to rescue their dog from rocky ocean waves. In late November, three members of the same family drowned at a beach north of Eureka, Calif., while attempting to pull their dog from forceful rip currents.

Giannini said the tragic events should encourage beachgoers to be more cautious.

People must have a "very, very keen awareness of the power of water," he said. "People may feel as if they have a good comfort level. But what you can't see can sometimes be a real threat."

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