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Maui drowning victim was spokesman for California agency

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. >> Workers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are mourning the loss of a spokesman who died while vacationing with his family in Hawaii.

Michael Taugher, 51, was snorkeling off Black Rock in Kaanapali with family members Saturday when he became separated from them.

Taugher was later found unresponsive in the water, and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The cause of his death was unknown but police said no foul play is suspected.

Taugher became an assistant deputy director of communications for the state wildlife agency in May 2012. State Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said Monday that the loss of Taugher is tragic.

“Mike was vital to this institution professionally, but more than that, he was a kind, caring person who clearly was a devoted father and husband. His loss is tragic and will be widely felt,” Laird said in a written statement.

Before going to work for the state, Taugher was a reporter at the Contra Costa Times for 12 years. Taugher also worked at newspapers in New Mexico, Colorado and in Lake Tahoe.

He is survived by a wife and two children, CDFW director Charlton Bohnam noted in a written statement.

“He was simply an exceptional man who brought a warmth and professionalism to his job that is rare. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, two children and extended family who have lost their husband and father at far too young of an age,” Bohnam wrote. “Mike was a friend and a colleague. He made our department a much better place and was all the things we as Californians hope to see in public servants.

An email sent Monday to staff members of the Bay Area News Group, which includes the Contra Costa Times, described Taugher as a “tremendous investigative reporter” who closely followed some of the state’s most pressing environmental issues when he was a reporter, including state water politics.

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