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LAGUNA BEACH : Rip Current Sweeps Man, 19, to Death

A 19-year-old Laguna Niguel man drowned Tuesday off West Street Beach, where relatives reported that he disappeared in the water moments after calling for help, authorities said.

Ryan Estacio, who was wearing pants and a shirt, had not been in the 59-degree ocean waters long before a strong current swept him beyond the surf line about 11:30 a.m., said Mike Dwinell, city marine safety manager.

“He went into the water, swam out a ways and a rip current pulled him out farther than he wanted to be,” Dwinell said. “He yelled and tried to signal for help, then went down.”

A passerby spotted Estacio’s body at 3:30 p.m. in an area known as Table Rock, about 100 yards south from the cove where he was last seen.

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Four relatives--two brothers and two uncles--had joined Estacio for the beach outing, according to police Sgt. Greg Bartz. None of the four were able to help Estacio, lifeguard officials said.

Lifeguards in diving gear scoured the murky water for about 2 1/2 hours before ending their search. Poor ocean visibility hampered efforts, which ended about 2:15 p.m.

“You could not see more than 18 inches in front of you,” said Scott Diederich, one of the Laguna Beach marine safety officers who helped search for Estacio.

Five divers from the state, county and cities of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach checked the water while a helicopter crew from the Orange County Fire Department flew above. Four boats from the County Harbor Patrol, state lifeguards and Newport Beach lifeguards also responded.

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Estacio attended Dana Hills High School in 1993, according to the Capistrano Unified School District.

An uncle of Estacio said he was too distraught to speak about his nephew.

The area where Estacio drowned can pose trouble when the surf is bigger than normal, Diederich said. On Tuesday, waves were two to four feet, with an occasional six-foot set, he said.


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