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Abalone diver's body found near Elk Harbor

The abalone diver reported missing Sunday night was found dead Tuesday morning in the underwater cave where he disappeared, Mendocino County Sheriff's officials said.

Feng Chang Wei, 44, a San Francisco man, had been diving with four friends on Sunday when strong waves pushed the group toward a cave along a bluff near Elk Harbor, between Point Arena and Mendocino, sheriff's officials said in a news release. Some of the men clung to rocks to keep from being pulled in, but a wave struck Feng and pushed him into the cave, said Lt. Shannon Barney, who heads search and rescue efforts for the Sheriff's Office. The man was knocked unconscious, according to an earlier interview with John Ross, an assistant chief for Elk volunteer fire.

The diver's friends reportedly tried to rescue him, but were forced to swim out to avoid being overcome by the strong waves themselves.

They called 911 and the Sheriff's Office, along with multiple other agencies, launched a huge search: They used helicopters, boats and divers to try to find the man but were unsuccessful, in part because the surf was too rough to search inside the cave, officials said. On Monday, the sheriff's search and rescue team again found conditions unsafe to enter the caves. They kept searching by air and water but still could not find the diver.

Conditions improved Tuesday morning and the Department of Fish and Game sent out divers to explore the cave, Barney said.

They found Feng's body at 9 a.m.

The coroner's office is still investigating the cause of death, Barney said.

This is the third abalone diver to die this year off the Mendocino County coast.

You can reach Staff Writer Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jamiehansen.

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