Tragedy at Newport Beach

An innocent day at the beach turned tragic for one Southland woman, when one of her dogs lost his life after being sucked into an ungated storm drain.

Madi McNaughton writes on her Facebook page that on Thursday, September 29th, she took four dogs to the Newport Beach side of the Santa Ana River Trail, which is north of the PCH bridge that divides Newport and Huntington Beach, near the river jetties, a dog-friendly area of the beach.

McNaughton says she and her dogs had been at the beach for about ten minutes when she decided to throw some balls into the seemingly “mellow” water for the dogs to chase and catch, but as she threw a ball for her Mastiff Mix Rupert, a high tide of water came in, sweeping him towards the storm drain. Although she dropped everything to run after and try to save him, the high water and lack of leverage made it impossible. She later recovered Rupert’s body at the back of the storm drain.

Since the incident, her Facebook post has been shared hundreds of times, and many people have come forward with their own “close calls” of children, dogs, and even adults almost falling victim to the area local surfers refer to as “the washing machine.”

According to Jodie Reyes, a friend of McNaughton, Orange County Public Works is the responsible agency for this drain, known as Avio Gate 1. They have placed caution tape around the drain, and are planning to install new signage warning of the danger later this week. They are also working to engineer a permanent fix, such as a gate or cover.

In the meantime, McNaughton is dedicated to making sure a similar tragedy never happens to another family.

A candlelight vigil to honor Rupert has been scheduled for Thursday, October 6th, at 6:30pm, at the Newport side of the river jetties.

Read McNaughton’s post and watch a video of the area in question here:


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