COSTA MESA, California (15 June 2008) — As a child, Timothy Hatch jumped from the roof of his home into the family pool. At age 14, he was certified as a diver. He was fascinated by sharks.
On Saturday, Tim, his dad and a few others tried out the family's newly detailed 28-foot Wellcraft twin engine boat.
Tim Hatch, 31, went free-diving - wearing just swim trunks and goggles - in a popular area off southwestern Santa Catalina Island known as the Palisades.
He made two trips and went out a third time.
Then he was gone.
"When he didn't come back we thought he was playing around at first,'' said his father, Bob Hatch, 56. "Then I jumped in a minute later. I got into the water and tried to see but I didn't have any goggles."
The men called for help. An off-duty lifeguard on a nearby boat responded. He dove to the area, about 100 feet off the island, where Tim Hatch had gone down.
He saw him at the bottom. But he couldn't get to him.
Calls went out to the Coast Guard and Avalon's Baywatch station. At 4:40 p.m.Tim Hatch's body was pulled out of the water. The Los Angeles County Coroner's office is still investigating the cause of death.
Bob Hatch said lifeguards said his son may have succumbed to shallow water blackout - a loss of consciousness caused by cerebral hypoxia, or deprivation of oxygen to the brain. That can happen toward the end of a breath-hold dive in water often less than 16 feet, according to dive Web sites. Victims often are experienced, fit and strong swimmers.
Meanwhile Mom Barbara Hatch and her daughter, Jennifer Rezell, 28, waited at Newport Harbor for the men to return. Plans included a trip around the bay and dinner.
No one showed up.
Later they got a call from Jennifer's husband, Jason Rezell.
He said they were just leaving Catalina. "He didn't give any information,'' Jennifer Rezell said. "He said he was sitting on the bow and the boat was going fast and he had to get off the phone. My mom thought maybe Timmy had done something silly like get his fishing line caught. Neither of us thought anything bad had happened."
The women went to dinner. That's where they got another call. This time they were told to come home.
"I saw my husband's face just looking down, and I just knew," Jennifer Rezell said. "My dad looked at my mom and hugged her and said, 'Timmy's gone.' "
Bob Hatch said that just before Tim had jumped into the water, Tim reflected that his last visit to Catalina -- on July 21, 2007 -- had been to propose to his fiancée Michelle Oyler, of Costa Mesa. She was in Spain on Sunday when she learned the news.
Plans for a Father's Day celebration at the Anaheim Country Club were cancelled.
"It was like a knife went through my heart," said Bob Hatch, of Anaheim Hills. "I don't know how I'll get through this. But my family will give me strength."
|Son Tim and father Bob in a 2002 photo. Tim drowned over the weekend while free diving at Catalina Island.|
Tim Hatch, of Costa Mesa, grew up in Emerson, N.J. He moved to California in 2000 and went to work for an engineering firm. Two years later his father decided to open a West Coast branch of his own engineering company, Linwood Engineering Associates in Costa Mesa, of which Tim most recently was president.
"He was an extremely bright and gifted individual," said his mother Barbara, 53. "He was licensed in both electrical and mechanical engineering and finished his five-year program at Rutgers University in three years."
But mostly his family remembers an outgoing guy who loved animals and cared deeply about others.
"He liked doing things for people and not getting thanked," said Bob Hatch. "He just wanted to make others happy."
Sister Jennifer remembers her brother cleaning out his closets and taking bagfuls of warm clothes to the homeless in New York City.
After college when he got his first job, he'd send $100 from each paycheck to his best friend who was still in college in an envelope with no return address, Barbara Hatch said. Here, he was a Big Brother to a 13-year-old boy named Danny. Each week he'd take him to the movies, dinner or shopping.
"He told me he couldn't believe how hard it was to be a parent," said Barbara Hatch. "He would be shopping and the boy would ask for things and he just couldn't say 'no.'"
On Sunday, the family learned about yet another selfless gesture Tim Hatch had made. They found out that he had signed an unrestricted donor card and that surgeons were on their way to Catalina.
"The hard part is that they have to do that with such immediacy," said Jennifer Rezell, who with her mother got the organ donation call just 30 minutes after learning of Tim's death. "At first we wanted to pick which organs but then we thought that Timmy would say, 'Just let them take everything.' It's just who he is. It's a way he can at least live on."