Carmel rescue claims woman's life, too

Father and daughter killed in bid to pull teenager from surf

March 19, 2008 

Jessica Darrough was the kind of woman who put everyone else first.

That spirit, which made her so popular at her Ceres church, compelled her to risk her life trying to save a 13-year-old girl from drowning Sunday in Carmel Bay.

Darrough, 23, died Tuesday morning, two days after the rescue that killed her father and left her in a coma.

"The reason this happened to her is because she was trying to save someone," said Joyce Mulligan, wife of the Darroughs' pastor. "Her love of people and compassion for people put them ahead of herself."

Jessica and her father, Mark Darrough, dived into the bay to rescue a girl from the church who had been walking on the shore and was swept away by a wave and strong currents.

Noe Gomez of Seaside also entered the water and pulled the 13-year-old to safety, but the Darroughs were overwhelmed by the waves and undertow. Lifeguards rescued them, but precious minutes passed. Jessica Darrough was pulled from the water first, but her father spent nearly 40 minutes in the ocean.

Three other members of their church required medical care after they also tried to save the 13-year-old.

Sheri Darrough, Jessica's mother and Mark's wife, spent the past two days at a Monterey hospital, comforting young people who came to support her daughter. She appeared exhausted Tuesday evening, but said her husband and daughter died living out their values.

"Their love for the Lord is in all of this," she said. "They would want people to know that Jesus is their lord and savior, and they would point people to him. That's why they tried to save this person."

She described her family as devout members of the Ceres Seventh-day Adventist Church. Mark Darrough, 47, was a deacon who often volunteered to do repairs.

Father and daughter volunteered with the church's Pathfinder Club for children, which organized the excursion to the Monterey/Carmel area. Sheri Darrough was there, too.

Their stop at Monastery Beach, which is part of Carmel River State Beach, was an unplanned break to let the kids play in the sand.

People who knew Jessica Darrough said she had a way with animals and that she hoped to learn how to train service dogs.

"She really loved animals. They knew it, and they loved her," said Emmett Bush, Jessica's grandfather. He lives next door to the Darroughs in south Modesto.

Sheri Darrough said her daughter participated in a church group for young adults and enjoyed volunteering with younger children.

"Every time I visited at church, she was saying, 'You have to meet everyone,' " remembered her friend Kellie Coelho, who spent time with the Darroughs on Tuesday.

"Two lives that have impacted many, many others," Coelho said while holding Jessica Darrough's sister, 22-year-old Jennifer.

The Darroughs are preparing public funeral services Friday for Jessica and Mark Darrough at their church. A time has not been set.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at or 578-2366.

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