Man swept out to sea during baptism at Santa Barbara County park

Tallest sand dunes on the West Coast.
Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, near Santa Maria, north of Santa Barbara.
(Los Angeles Times )

A 43-year-old man was swept out to sea Sunday during a baptism ceremony at a coastal park in northern Santa Barbara County.

Two other people were also dragged into the ocean but returned to shore during the early morning service at Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. But an extensive search by emergency teams failed to find the missing man by nightfall, the Santa Maria Times reported.

Jesus Christ Light of the Sky, the Santa Maria church that put on the ceremony, performs similar baptisms two or three times a year, Pastor Mauro Cervantes told the paper. Most of the 25 people at the ceremony were Spanish speakers.

The preserve, just south of the town of Guadalupe, has sand dunes that tower 550 feet high, the tallest on the West Coast. Park authorities warn on their website that the surf at the spot can be “very dangerous.”

Twitter: @geholland