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Water search called off for woman seen clinging to Santa Monica Pier

Lifeguards search the water near the Santa Monica Pier at night.
Lifeguards search the water near the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday night for a woman seen clinging to pilings. A passerby had earlier informed lifeguards about a woman in the water.
(OnScene.TV)

Authorities briefly resumed and then called off a search Monday for a woman a passerby saw disappear into the surf near the Santa Monica Pier about 12 hours earlier.

A man reported to the Santa Monica Harbor Patrol at 8:45 p.m. Sunday that he had seen a woman, likely in her 30s and wearing something resembling a swimsuit, clinging to the pier pilings and asking for help.

“The witnesses said that a wave hit her, and then she was gone,” said Lidia Barillas, a lifeguard captain for the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Lifeguard Division.

Emergency response teams swarmed the beach, with lifeguards arriving within a minute to search the water from the shore and from the department’s Baywatch del Rey boat.

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Video from the scene shows divers with rescue buoys combing the shoreline and beneath the pilings, using flashlights to illuminate the night. A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter can be seen circling the area, shining a beam onto the dark water. A crowd gathered on the pier to watch the operation unfold.

The search was temporarily called off at 11 p.m., Barillas said, and the teams went home to rest.

About an hour after the search resumed Monday morning, the Lifeguard Division announced it was suspending the search “pending further information.” It did not elaborate.

A representative of the Lifeguard Division couldn’t be reached by telephone Monday evening, and the Santa Monica Police Department’s Harbor Patrol didn’t immediately return a phone message.

Authorities used boats and aircraft to search 93 square nautical miles, the U.S. Coast Guard, which assisted in the search, wrote on Twitter.

Lifeguards would continue periodic patrols on land and by boat, according to a message posted on the Lifeguard Division’s Twitter account.

Santa Monica police have not logged any recent missing persons reports that match the description of the woman, Lt. Rudy Flores, a department spokesman, said in an email.

“Reports can come in, and, who knows, sometimes things could be not correct. But for us ... we still have a standard response that we have when certain triggers come up,” Barillas said. “We do our due diligence and provide that service, and provide for the community.”

She added, imploring the public, “Please swim in front of an open lifeguard tower during daylight hours.”


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