The death of 30-year-old Davies Kabogoza, who fell into Santa Barbara Harbor while stand-up paddle boarding on April 29, has been ruled an accidental drowning, according to the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s report. Kabogoza did not know how to swim, and he had improperly fastened the belt-pack flotation device that was provided with the board rental from Santa Barbara Sailing Center, according to the report. Such flotation devices are worn around the waist, to be inflated with a pull cord in case of emergency.
“The investigation revealed that the device appeared to be in good working order but it never inflated likely because [Kabogoza] was not wearing it correctly,” according to Sheriff Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover. “The belt was found attached to his waist with the flotation part of the device facing backwards, and the strap was secured tightly around his waist, which would make it difficult to move the device to a correct position during a stressful situation.”
Kabogoza was paddle boarding with a 19-year-old female acquaintance, returning to the harbor around 2:20 pm. According to the report, the woman heard Kabogoza fall and saw him struggle for a moment, but she was unable to reach him due to water conditions, which had become choppy with the afternoon wind. Kabogoza was not leashed to his board. His body was recovered by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s dive team, which was returning from a training trip to the Channel Islands. The toxicology report revealed that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.
Kabogoza arrived in the U.S. from Uganda in late 2010 with the help of the Sports Outreach Institute, a Christian initiative to help impoverished countries through athletics and job training. Kabogoza played and coached soccer at Santa Barbara City College and, more recently, coached at Laguna Blanca School. He also played for Westmont College, where he graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. He was a physical therapy aide at Hayashida Physical Therapy in Santa Barbara.