Family forms human chain to save drowning Pleasanton teacher at Half Moon Bay beach

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A substitute lunch supervisor in Pleasanton and beloved mother and wife drowned on Sunday while she and 10 other relatives and friends were swept out to sea in Half Moon Bay, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and her brother-in-law.

Relatives of Aarti Senthilvel, 47, of Pleasanton explained the tragic circumstances of her death at Cowell Ranch State Beach about 6:30 p.m.

A brother-in-law who asked that his name be kept private said that Senthilvel and her extended family and some friends were in ankle-deep water enjoying an evening at the beach when 11 of the group, including Senthilvel and three others, ages 16 to 50, were swept away by the undertow. 

Senthilvel couldn't swim all that well, he said, and purposely had not gone out too far. "She was a very cautious person," the brother-in-law said.

But sneaker waves came upon them and the group got caught up in the rip tides, the brother-in-law said. 

Senthilvel's daughter tried to save her, but then found herself in trouble, the brother-in-law said. Then, Senthilvel's son saw his sister in need of help and he went to save her. The group formed a human chain, providing support for those caught out at sea. While Senthilvel's two children were brought to safety, Senthilvel was not, her brother-in-law said. 

San Mateo Sheriff's Detective Rosemerry Blankswade said the Senthilvel's body was eventually swept back to shore, Blankswade said, and CPR was performed, but she could not be revived. 

Patrick Gannon, a spokesman at the Pleasanton Unified School District, said that Senthilvel had been a regular substitute lunch supervisor at the district and she worked at several of the schools.

He said he didn't know Senthilvel personally, but noted the tragic loss on her students as well as her family.