A volunteer with the National Park Service was killed last Wednesday after he fell from a dock ladder on Anacapa Island. Joe Wysocki, 65, was trying to board the National Park Service (NPS) boat Ocean Ranger at about 3:15 pm when he fell and sustained a serious head injury, said NPS spokesperson Yvonne Menard.
Wysocki was pulled from the water, loaded onto the boat, and airlifted by a Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue helicopter to an area hospital. Despite resuscitative efforts, Wysocki was declared dead at approximately 4:00 p.m.
An audio visual technician and camera operator for the park’s Channel Island Live education program, Wysocki had been a volunteer for the Channel Islands National Park since November 2011. He spent his career working as a physicist at a research lab in Malibu and in his free time enjoyed sailing, boating, and diving. The day he was killed, Wysocki and his crew made two live broadcasts to students watching informative talks about island biology and ecology from their school computers.
“Joe was a part of the National Park Service family,” said Menard. “We’re grieving, and our thoughts go out to all of his family and friends. Joe was intelligent, committed; we miss his personality and all his contributions.”
Though getting on and off Anacapa Island’s landing dock can be somewhat tricky and dangerous — visitors are required to step from an unanchored vessel onto an open steel ladder, timing the step or short jump to compensate for the movement of a lurching boat — Menard said this was the first major accident at the location in recent memory. Public boats are able to back up to the ladder, but larger NPS boats offload from the side, she explained.
The ocean on the day of the accident was glassy and calm with about a foot of swell, Menard said. On rougher days, she said, the wind and waves can whip into the cove from the northwest and make loading and unloading more difficult.
[CLARIFICATION: Portions of the above article involve observations based on the reporter’s first-hand experience at Anacapa Island and are not based on comments from National Park Service spokesperson Yvonne Menard. Specifically, Menard did not call the landing dangerous, but did state that this was the first known accident of any kind on this specific ladder.]