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Day 3: Divers, Helicopters, Boats Continue Search for Missing Swimmer [UPDATED]

Joseph Sanchez, 18, of Long Beach, was left on a rock by a friend who went to get help. He was never seen again. "Our divers began making dives at daybreak and will continue until sundown," says an LASD spokeswoman.

Twitter photo, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Enforcement Bureau.
Twitter photo, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Enforcement Bureau.

Originally posted at 11:04 a.m. July 11, 2014. Edited with new details.

A team of special divers scoured a cave with poor visibility today in sarch for a young man thought to have drowned off Rancho Palos Verdes while cliff jumping with friends, authorities said.

Joseph Sanchez, 18, of Long Beach got into trouble in the surging waters near Inspiration Point Wednesday and was pulled onto some rocks by a friend, Toogee Zepeda, who then went to find help. When Zepeda returned with help, Sanchez was missing. The search operation began about 3 p.m. Wednesday.

"Our divers began making dives at daybreak and will continue until sundown," sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said. "We also have several helicopters and six boats that are patrolling the surf along the shore."

Today's search was being conducted by divers from the Sheriff's Emergency Services Bureau, part of the Special Enforcement Bureau, in the area where Sanchez was last seen, according to Sgt. Thomas Giandomenico.

"The area in the back is most likely, possibly where the victim would be and is where the cave divers are working now. Visibility is horrible," Giandomenico told Video News West.

Searching the cave is a challenge because waves entering the cave create a current.

"The current comes in. It stays in," Giandomenico said. "It creates a blow hole in the back of this cave that basically takes the divers and tosses them around like in a washer machine."

The waves and tide have lessened since Wednesday, making Giandomenico hopeful Sanchez will be found. He said rescuers believe it is unlikely the victim washed out of the cave due to the strong currents.

An aerial search team will be scouring the coast, including caves and coves from San Pedro to Malibu later today, he said.

Divers spent about eight hours on Thursday searching for him.

Sanchez's family members watched the recovery mission from the top of Inspiration Point from under a tent, and a sheriff chaplain was on hand for support, according to the sheriff's department.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, several other rescues were made in the same general area, where jumping into a tidal pool known as Sacred Cove is popular.

Public access to the area, including Inspiration Point and Portuguese Point, was restricted until sundown Sunday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department announced.

--City News Service


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