- (Photo: Screenshot via KEYT-TV)
The U.S. Coast Guard and other rescue teams continue their search Monday for a 43-year-old man who was reportedly pulled into the surf at a Central California beach while helping perform a beach baptism.
Benito Flores was reportedly helping his cousin, Pastor Maurigro Cervantes of Jesus Christ Light of the Sky Church, perform a baptism at about 10 a.m. Sunday when he was pulled into the sea by a wave at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve in Guadalupe, Calif. The small beach town is located in Santa Barbara County, about ten miles west of Santa Maria.
Flores was swept into the sea by a tumultuous wave along with Cervantes and a young man waiting to be baptized. The other two survivors were able to make their way to shore, while Flores disappeared into the ocean. About 25 people, who are members of the Spanish-speaking church, witnessed the incident on Sunday from the beach's parking lot.
"A big wave came and took Benito, I tried to take him out, he was heavy and then another big wave came," Cervantes told the local KEYT-TV. Santa Barbara County Battalion Chief Diondray Wiley confirmed to the local media outlet that a third victim of the violent surf was unaccounted for.
"There were three people initially, two were able to self-rescue and the one, is the one that's unaccounted for." Wiley added that his fire crew and other rescue teams were searching the area south of where Flores disappeared from due to the strong current.
"We gridded from Oso Flaco to Guadalupe beach and further south. The coast guard followed the current to do our searches."
The Coast Guard reportedly sent helicopters and a vessel to aid in the search for Flores. Fire departments from Guadalupe, Vandenberg and Santa Maria also aided in the search, as well as the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team.
Although the Santa Barbara County Fire Department has suspended their search for Flores, the U.S. Coast Guard and the California State Parks water rescue team have continued their search for a body into Monday. As the Santa Maria Times reports, multiple sightings of a "body" floating two miles north of the Guadalupe Dunes Park on Monday turned out to be false. The objects spotted were reportedly fishing buoys.