A California man was swept out to sea during a baptism in Santa Barbara County. Pastor Mauro Cervantes said his cousin Benito Flores was assisting with the Sunday morning baptism when he was overcome by a rogue wave. Although Cervantes attempted to save his cousin, it was simply too late.
A total of three people were overtaken by the waves, including the pastor and a man being baptized. Thankfully, the two others safely made their way back to the shore. Rescue teams scoured the Pacific Coast for the missing man. Unfortunately, they were forced to call off the search at around midnight.
As reported by Washington Post, the baptism was being performed at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. The 22,000 acre preserve is popular destination for bird watching and recreation. Considered “one of the most ecologically significant and largest intact coastal dune ecosystems on Earth” the preserve is a favorite among residents and tourists.
Although the preserve’s 18-mile coastline is a popular destination, California officials warn that the waves can be “very dangerous” for those entering the ocean.
Despite the warning, The California church performs baptisms along the shore several times every year. Cervantes said there were approximately 25 church members attending Sunday’s baptism.
Church officials said this was their first mishap during a baptism.
Rescue teams from Santa Barbara County, Guadalupe, Vandenberg, Santa Maria, and the Coast Guard, responded to the scene. However, the 43-year-old Santa Maria man remains missing.
Santa Barbara County Battalion Chief Diondray Wiley said rescue teams resumed their efforts this morning. They are attempting to search along the current using a grid pattern. So far, the teams have searched from Oso Flaco to south of Guadalupe Beach.
Pastor Maurigro Cervantes and his family are devastated. The pastor said “A big wave came and took Benito, I tried to take him out, he was heavy and then another big wave came.” The second wave was simply too strong and Flores was carried out to sea.
Santa Barbara Fire Captain David Sadecki said the waves are rough and the water is dangerously cold. BBC reports that it is unlikely Flores survived more than 30 minutes. Although the family is understandably concerned, they are not willing to give up hope.
Jesus Christ Light of the Sky Church routinely performs baptisms at the California preserve. However, the recent tragedy may force them to evaluate their procedures.
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