SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Lifeguards launched a search for an 18-year-old man swept out to sea by rip currents in Mission Beach Tuesday afternoon.
“Me and my kids were lying on the beach today and the lifeguards said that there’s a rescue," Kelly Eftekhari, a Mission Beach resident, said.
“I saw two little girls being rescued a little after 3:30 [p.m.]," another Mission Beach resident told ABC 10News.
According to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, a lifeguard watching the beach near Jersey Court in Mission Beach spotted a group of swimmers and noticed that one appeared to be struggling.
The department said the lifeguard radioed for more assistance and two teenagers were rescued. The 18-year-old became submerged and "did not resurface."
“Lifeguards already had a vessel in the water. So they sent the vessel to that area. They got there within about 10 seconds and the young man slipped under the surface," Chief James Gartland, San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard division, said.
More resources were called to the scene and the department used personal watercraft, rescue boats, surfboards, and additional lifeguards swimming in the water. After several hours, the search deemed a recovery effort.
“We start using technology, side scan SONAR. We continue the search with the air assets," Gartland said. “And then start diving on targets. The visibility is extremely challenging. It’s about zero visibility inside the surf line. Outside of the surf line, it’s about five feet of visibility.”
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, cutter, and lifeguard rescue boat were still in the water at around 7:30 p.m. using sonar to search for the teen. Lifeguards said waves were larger Tuesday and currents were stronger.
“These are extremely challenging conditions. And that’s why we ask when people come to the beach that they swim near a lifeguard," Gartland said. He added that if someone isn't a strong ocean swimmer, they should wear a lifeguard-approved flotation device.
The lifeguard chief added that these types of recovery operations aren't very common in the Mission Beach area. "We commonly make a lot of rescues. These are just challenging conditions and, unfortunately, the person was a non-swimmer," Gartland said.
"The recovery effort will continue until the sun goes down Tuesday. Lifeguards will reconvene Wednesday morning," the department said.
The identity of the missing swimmer was not immediately released, but friends told ABC 10News on Wednesday that the swimmer was part of a group of recent Crawford High School graduates.