updated 12/27/2006 11:17:30 AM ET 2006-12-27T16:17:30

A man rescued his 4-year-old grandniece who was swept into the ocean by a wave, then drowned in the rough surf on Tuesday, authorities said.

The girl and her mother were watching the big waves when one knocked the child off a jetty, said Ventura County fire Capt. Barry Parker.

Timothy Barry, 54, jumped into the water off Pierpont Beach after hearing the girl's mother screaming for help, Parker said.

Barry reached the girl and kept her head above water until a surfer arrived and brought her to safety, Parker said.

Lifeguards found Barry floating face down by the time they arrived. He was not breathing and did not have a pulse, Parker said.

About an hour later, police and state lifeguards closed the Ventura Pier about a quarter-mile away because 10- to 12-foot waves were slapping its underside, said police Sgt. Jack Richards.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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