Boy's tragic drowning death inspires safety stations along San Mateo coast

On Wednesday, several emergency life-saving stations equipped with ring buoys will be unveiled. They’ll be installed at beaches along the San Mateo Coast to help prevent drownings. The idea came from the tragic death of a Fremont boy.

Eric Jones, the founder of nonprofit Sea Valor, knows the unique dangers of sneaker waves.

"From a very young age, I was taught by my parents, you never turn your back on the ocean because it’s just unpredictable," said Jones.

However, many beach visitors don’t know the risks.

Jones helped with the search of 12-year-old Arunay Pruthi of Fremont. The seventh grader was swept out to sea back in January pulled in by a sneaker wave playing on Cowell Ranch State Beach.

"It was something we never imagine would happen on a bright sunny day on the beach," said Arunay’s mother Sharmistha Chakraborty.

For 15 minutes, Arunay’s family and other beach-goers watched as Arunay tried to swim. Human chains were formed and items like beach tents were thrown. Nothing was able to bring him back.

"All the people on the beach that day were helpless," said Kaylan Gummadam of the Arunay Foundation. "I don’t know any way you look at it, standing there watching it happen was really tough."

"It’s a life-long grief so we may not be able to recover from it," said Chakraborty. "We just have to move forward."

Ten months later, the Arunay Foundation along with Sea Valor nonprofit. They are now raising awareness about beach hazards with life-saving stations.

They are complete with a triangular sign that say danger in 12 different languages, an informational sign noting how many people have died from sneaker waves and the most important component is a life ring with 100 feet of rope attached.

"The idea is that hopefully someone will grab one of these rings and throw them to the person in distress instead of jumping in themselves," said Jones.

The stations are privately funded and sponsored. The first one is installed at Mavericks Beach and two at Surfer’s Beach.

Arunay’s family believes if there was a life-saving station that day, their son would be home.

"All know is if someone else would have put it there, they could have saved my son’s life so why not me doing it for someone else’s life," said Chakraborty.

The project will serve as a pilot program. The hope is that it will expand to other areas along the California coastline once permits are secured. The ribbon cutting is at Pillar Point Harbor at 10:30 a.m.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or