Free Diver, 40, Remembered After Body Is Found in Waters Off Palos Verdes Peninsula

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The day after the body of a 40-year-old fisherman, boater and free diver was recovered from waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, he was being remembered Sunday as a “South Bay rebel” with “a heart of gold.”

Friends said Taras Poznik was the man found dead following a multi-agency search that began Friday evening. The discovery was made after Poznik went free diving in search of a giant white sea bass, and his loaded speargun was located floating near the 18-foot vessel he had borrowed from a friend, the Easy Reader News reported.

“We dove together off Palos Verdes last Friday and I shot a 40-pound white sea bass,” Paul Hugoboom told the South Bay newspaper. “Taras told me he had seen an even bigger one, but the visibility was poor and he wasn’t able to get a good shot at it. He wanted to borrow my boat to go back for it.”

Poznik was reported missing from the vessel, anchored some 500 yards from the coastline, about 9 p.m. A search was launched that ultimately included resources from the Coast Guard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire departments, and the Redondo Beach Fire Department’s Harbor Patrol.

The missing diver’s body was found about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, about a mile from where the unattended boat was anchored. The discovery was confirmed by the Sheriff’s Department and the county Fire Department’s Lifeguard Division. Coroner’s officials are expected to determine the official cause of death.

“He was a truly good human being and a wonderful friend,” Amie Davis wrote on Facebook. She described Poznik as “one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people I’ve never had the honor of knowing. … He was a true friend and a wonderful dad.”

Alexander Poznik is seen with his father, Taras Poznik, whose body was found in waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula on April 9, 2016. (Credit: Zanetta Chichester)

Alexander Poznik is seen with his father, Taras Poznik. (Credit: Zanetta Chichester)

Poznik is survived by his girlfriend, Gina Walton, and his 14-year-old daughter, Desiree, according to the Easy Reader News. He is also survived by his 11-year-old son, Alexander, said the boy’s mother, Zanetta Chichester.

The weekly newspaper described Taras Poznik as a “once-troubled South Bay rebel … who found redemption at sea.”

In 2000, the then-24-year-old Poznik was sentenced to six month in jail and six months in an alcohol treatment facility for the theft of Big Mama — a beloved 50-pound halibut — and 19 other fish from the California Halibut Hatchery in Redondo Beach, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Poznik confessed he had committed the crime in a drunken stupor and then barbecued and served Big Mama at a party in Manhattan Beach, his lawyer Laurie Belger said, according to The Times.

The incident sparked outrage within the local community.

“I’ve represented 17 people for murder, and I’ve never had anyone so angry as these people were over a halibut,” Belger said at the time.

“He didn’t know the value of the thing,” she added. “In fact, he felt terrible when he found out everyone loved it like a pet.”

Poznik later went on to become “the best charter dive captain on the West Coast,” friend Matt Meistrell told the Easy Reader News.

“He was full of truth, honor, love, kindness, courage and steadfastness,” Meistrell said. “He’ll be my true warrior brother forever.”