A man drowned in front of his wife while trying to save their two children who were swept out to sea.
Michael Wyman rushed into the water at Blind Beach in Jenner, California when his seven-year-old daughter and her four-year-old son were pulled in by the waves.
They had been playing on the sand but had edged too close to the waves, officials said.
Mr Wyman managed to grab hold of his son, only for the strong rip current to sweep all three of them out to sea.
The victim’s wife was joined by passers-by in helping get the dad out of the water.
They performed CPR on the 40-year-old until first responders arrived, but Mr Wyman could not be saved.
A large scale operation including helicopters was launched in a bid to find the children, but only recovered a small jacket and a pair of shoes.
Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman was one of the first to the scene.
He said: “His wife was sitting in a rock, crying, saying ‘where is the kids?'”
“The hardest part is that as they pronounced him (Mr Wyman) dead, a piece of clothing washed in and out.
“It made everyone realize there was still someone out there.”
The search operation for the children has continued, but it is assumed that they are dead.
A high surf advisory was in effect along the coast at the time that the trio were washed out, at around 2pm on Saturday.
Sonoma County Sheriff Lt. Michael Raasch said : “The waves are very treacherous.
“Even very strong swimmers would have trouble getting out of the water.”
The police chief said the family had only recently moved to Sonoma County from out of state.