Remains of Diver Recovered in Underwater Cave off Santa Cruz Island

Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office Suggests It Could Be Diver Who Went Missing in 2020

Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office
Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office

The remains of a diver were recovered Friday in an underwater cave system near Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday. While the county coroner has yet to confirm the identity of the diver, the Sheriff’s Office noted that the remains were recovered near the same location where a missing diver was last seen alive nearly two years ago.

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, two recreational divers exploring an underwater cave system came across what appeared to be human remains near the ocean floor and notified the Sheriff’s Office. Following several days of planning in coordination with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Marine Enforcement Unit, and the National Park Service, the Sheriff’s Office’s Underwater Search and Recovery Team and allied agency divers on November 11 responded to the area of Seal Cove, where the diver’s remains were recovered from the underwater cave.

The decedent was transported to the Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau for further investigation and identification. According to a Sheriff’s Office statement, “Coroner’s detectives plan on utilizing rapid DNA to confirm the identity of the decedent with anticipated completion next week,” at which point next of kin will be notified and the diver’s identity made public.

Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office

Based on the location where the remains were recovered, the diver could very well be 31-year-old Ryder Sturt of Ventura, who went missing the evening of Sunday, November 29, 2020, while tank diving for lobster with a partner from a 20-foot recreational boat near Painted Cave. When his partner surfaced at around 6:45 p.m. and Sturt did not, the partner radioed for help. A search of the area by the Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Office followed but was ultimately suspended after the search teams were unable to locate Sturt.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Raquel Zick noted at the time of Sturt’s disappearance that the “incident does not appear suspicious in nature.”

CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct Ryder Sturt‘s age and city of residence.

Support the Santa Barbara Independent through a long-term or a single contribution.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.