19-year-old who died in Cambria surfing accident remembered as ‘sensitive and kind’

Liam “Alex” Taylor.
Liam “Alex” Taylor.

UPDATE: The family of the 19-year-old killed in a surfing accident Friday in Cambria has identified him as Liam Taylor.

Taylor, a 2015 graduate of Coast Union High School, was an avid surfer and was in the water at one of his favorite spots at Moonstone Beach when he died, his stepfather, Brad Crampton, said.

Taylor grew up in Cambria and will be remembered for being “really sensitive and kind to people,” Crampton said.

He said that Taylor frequented five or six surf spots in the area and Moonstone Beach was among his favorites. He was “enthralled” with surfing.

“He started surfing when he was 13,” Crampton said. “Prior to that, he did a lot of skateboarding.”

Crampton said that he’d known Taylor for 12 years and they lived together for nine of them, adding that he watched him grow up to become a tall, skinny young man of about 6-foot-2, 140 pounds — earning him the nickname “Skinny.”

An avid surfer himself, Crampton said the accident was unusual and one he’d never heard of before. He wasn’t at the scene, but learned from what happened from firsthand accounts.

“The wave closed out, and he kept riding it on his stomach,” Crampton said. “It just kind of threw him, and he just hit the sand.”

Taylor’s mother, Shelley Triggs, spent time with her son at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center before his death, speaking to him, though Taylor wasn’t responding, Crampton said.

“His mom got to spend some time with him,” Crampton said. “He was unconscious, but maybe he heard her. That was good for her, too.”

Crampton said the family has been left with an “incredible emptiness” and that they have a “long way to go” to heal emotionally.

“I just hoped he’ll be remembered for who he was, somebody who was really a positive influence in the world and a great person because of his brightness and beauty,” Crampton said.

ORIGINAL STORY: A 19-year-old man was injured Friday afternoon and later died in a surfing accident in the waters off Moonstone Beach in Cambria, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

The unidentified man had been surfing with friends when the accident occurred about 4:40 p.m.

When deputies arrived on scene, CPR already was in progress, the Sheriff’s Office said. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died about 8:15 p.m.

The man’s identity isn’t being released pending notification of next of kin.

He was an experienced surfer, who also was a volunteer member of a North Coast ocean rescue team offering help to people in distress in the ocean, said Emily Torlano, the captain of Cambria Community Service District’s Fire Department.

“He happened to get sucked over a wave that picked him up the wrong way and he hit his head on the ground,” Torlano said. “He had been surfing his whole life. He grew up in the water.”

Torlano said he was surfing with two friends and they immediately took him to shore and conducted CPR to restore his pulse. Cambria CSD Fire officials responded in six minutes to the scene after a 4:42 p.m. emergency response call.

“He was unconscious and he’d lost his pulse, and if it wasn’t for the friends I’m not sure we could have restored it,” Torlano said. “They did everything they could. They did their best.”

Torlano said he never regained consciousness. She said the waves were average in size and nothing was unusual about the ocean conditions.

Torlano called the surfer “a solid guy” and said she knew him and his family well. He went through an extensive training course that included CPR training to help rescue others in incidents of potential ocean drownings or distressed swimmers.

Honoring the surfer using his nickname, his friends scrawled “Skinny, We Love You” on a surfboard that they positioned on some rocks at Moonstone Beach as a memorial.

“I think it will be up for awhile,” Torlano said.

The Sheriff’s is investigating the incident. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the manner and cause of death, the office said.