Police said a woman lying on a beach was crushed to death by a tractor on Monday morning in Oceanside, San Diego County, in what police are calling a “very tragic accident.” Lt. Tom Bussey of the Oceanside Police Department told NBC7 that a woman, who was believed to be sleeping at the time, was run over by a Caterpillar Tractor just after 10 a.m. near South Oceanside Harbor.
The victim, who has not been identified at this time but is thought by police to be in her 40s or 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene, the outlet reported. Bussey said, “It’s a very tragic accident.” According to the police spokesperson, the heavy machinery was on the beach for a dredging operation, a routine process that occurs in Oceanside every few years. Workers were using the tractors to move the dredge pipes to a specific spot on the beach where they could then be removed.
Bussey added that the driver, who didn’t see the woman and was “shaken” after the incident, was reversing into a safety zone when he ran over the victim. The tractor weighs over 50,000 pounds, according to officials. Bussey told NBC7 that an investigation is ongoing.
The Woman Had Been Lying on the Beach for a While Before the Tragic Incident & Some People Had Approached Her to Check on Her
Jay Burneo, a surfer who was on the beach when the incident occurred, told NBC7 that he spotted the woman before going in the water and mentioned to the lifeguards that they might want to check on her since she appeared “very fragile.” He added:
She was leaning up against a wall ready to pass out and there was a gentleman that asked if she was OK and she seemed to say, ‘I’m OK.’ When I came back out of the water I saw her laying here crumbled up and that’s when a police officer told me [what happened].
Other witnesses told police officers on the scene that she had been there since about 9 a.m. and a few had approached her to check on her. Bussey told NBC7 that she was fully dressed and wasn’t wearing a bathing suit, and she also had no identification on her.
A surf instructor also reported seeing her speaking with a city employee, the Los Angeles Times reported. John Daniels told the outlet he saw the woman speaking to the city worker just 10 to 15 minutes before her death. He said he thought she was homeless. Afterward, the employee approached Daniels and told him that he’d offered her water.
Oceanside Harbor Is Dredged Regularly & Has Been Dredged Twice So Far This Year
Oceanside has previously shared updates about the Oceanside Harbor dredging project:
As of 9/22 the @LADistrictUSACE's contractor had dredged 140,000 cubic yards of sand from the #Oceanside Harbor inlet. Demobilization will begin Friday & they expect to have all pipe and vessels removed by 10/2. pic.twitter.com/OKlvwvCnDr
— City of Oceanside (@CityofOceanside) September 24, 2020
The harbor is frequently dredged and the projects are usually completed in the spring. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and storms earlier this year, the project was ended in the spring, with only 250,000 cubic yards dredged instead of the goal of 400,000 cubic feet, the Times reported. The dredging resumed recently, the outlet wrote, because certain areas near the jetty were too shallow.
The project is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the company operating the heavy machinery are contractors employed by Manson Dredge Company, CBS News 8 said. Police stated they do not believe the driver was under the influence at the time of the incident.