A 43-year-old man who was reportedly swept out to sea at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve during a baptism ceremony this morning, had not been located as of 6 p.m., according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
The man was swept out with two other people just before 10 a.m., according to Mauro Cervantes, the pastor of the Santa Maria church Jesus Christ Light of the Sky.
The other two people were able to return to shore, he said. Emergency crews responded to the beach and began searching as a group of participants in the baptism ceremony, most of whom were speaking Spanish, waited in the parking lot.
Cervantes said there were about 25 people at the ceremony a couple of hundred yards north of the parking lot. The church performs such baptism ceremonies two or three times a year, he said. Cervantes did not identify the missing man.
In addition to Santa Barbara County fire crews and the agency’s water rescue team, others helping search for the missing man were from Guadalupe, Vandenberg and Santa Maria fire departments and the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team. Also involved were helicopters from the county Air Support Unit plus the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard also sent a vessel from Morro Bay, according to Capt. David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Diondray Wiley, a battalion chief with the county fire department, said the search was being conducted to the south of the spot that the man disappeared because of the ocean currents.