The pastor, Mauro Cervantes, told KCOY-TV that his cousin, Benito Flores, was helping him baptize a man when a rogue wave pulled him into the ocean, The Associated Press reported. The cousin was dragged out with two other people just before 10 a.m. Pacific time at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, Cervantes told the Santa Maria Times. The other two returned to shore during the service.
“A big wave came and took Benito. I tried to take him out, he was heavy, and then another big wave came,” Cervantes told KCOY TV.
The second wave pulled his cousin from the shore.
Santa Barbara County Battalion Chief Diondray Wiley said, “There were three people initially, two were able to self rescue and the one, is the one that’s unaccounted for.”
In addition to Santa Barbara County fire crews and the agency’s water rescue team, others helping in the search were from Guadalupe, Vandenberg and Santa Maria fire departments as well as the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team, the Times reported. Helicopters from the county Air Support Unit and the Coast Guard also aided in the search. The Coast Guard sent a vessel from Morro Bay, Capt. David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department told the Times.
The preserve, near of the town of Guadalupe, has sand dunes more than 550 feet high, the tallest on the West Coast. Officials warn on its website the surf can be “very dangerous.”
This is also the location that was used in 1923 to film “The Ten Commandments” by Cecil B. DeMille, according to the website.