A 22-hour search for two missing UC Santa Cruz students who were swept out to sea by a large wave was suspended Tuesday night after rescue teams failed to locate the pair.
The lost students and three college friends were visiting Bonny Doon Beach in Santa Cruz at 5:03 p.m. Monday when a wave washed over the rock they were standing on, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Three students were swept into the water, and two others found themselves stranded on the rocks below a 70-foot cliff on the beach.
Rescue crews were able to rappel off the cliff and rescue the two students who were stranded on the rock, and one of the students who was swept out to sea was able to swim back to shore with minor injuries, authorities said.
Emergency crews lined the cliff and set up lights in the area as they searched for the two students who remained in the turbulent sea.
But the powerful waves prevented rescue swimmers from entering the water.
At one point, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew over the area and its crew thought they spotted the students in a cave. Rescue crews rappelled off the cliff to a rock outcropping near the cave, but were unable to find the students.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the missing persons,” said Capt. Greg Stump, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard in San Francisco.
Powerful surf continues to hit the California coastline, prompting large-wave warnings throughout the state.
The Santa Cruz Fire Department advised swimmers to use caution while entering the ocean in the next few weeks.
“With large surf forecasted for the next few weeks these unfortunate types of events are more likely to occur,” the fire department said in a statement. “People can put themselves at risk as well as the lives of rescuers by not keeping a safe distance from the ocean and cliffs.”
Surf could reach up to 15 feet Wednesday along California’s central coast and cause strong rip currents that increase the risk of drowning, according to the National Weather Service.
Swimmers who find themselves caught in a rip current should swim parallel to the shore until free.
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