The search continued Thursday for an 18-year-old swimmer who disappeared a day earlier under heavy surf near Abalone Cove Shoreline Park in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Identified by high school friends as Joseph Sanchez, the teen reportedly had been cliff-jumping off Inspiration Point — something they did regularly. But high surf knocked him into the rocks and swept him into a cave, fellow cliff jumper Toogee Zepeda told KTLA-TV.
Zepeda jumped in to help Sanchez — described as a poor swimmer — but the surf proved to be too much.
“Every time we had air, another wave kept piling on top of us," he told reporters at the scene.
That's when Zepeda decided to go back for help.
“I told him, 'Hold on to this rock. Whatever you do, don’t let go of this rock,'" he recalled telling Sanchez as he swam away.
The U.S. Coast Guard, lifeguards and divers started looking for Sanchez at 2:55 p.m. after witness reports of a body that was submerged in the ocean.
"It doesn't look good," Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Keith Mora told The Times.
The rescue call was one of many fire officials have fielded since the weekend, mostly due to strong rip currents, especially along the south side of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Fire officials have responded to at least 49 ocean rescues since the weekend, he said.
He urged swimmers not to "underestimate the power of the rip tides."
Swimmers, he said, should stay close to lifeguard towers, and swim with a partner.