A team of special divers will resume their search this morning, conditions permitting, for an 18-year-old swimmer missing since Wednesday and presumed drowned off Rancho Palos Verdes.
The search for Joseph Sanchez of Long Beach was suspended for the day late Friday afternoon, said Peter Gomez of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.
The divers scoured a cave near Inspiration Point with poor visibility in search of Sanchez, who is thought to have drowned while cliff jumping with friends, authorities said.
Sanchez got into trouble in the surging waters and was pulled onto some rocks by a friend, Toogee Zepeda, who then went to find help.
When Zepeda returned, Sanchez was missing. The search operation began about 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said in addition to the divers, several helicopters and six boats patrolled the surf along the shore in search of the missing man.
The 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 sheriff’s 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 said.
The search was 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 was due to scour the coast, including caves and coves from San Pedro to Malibu, he said.
Divers spent more than eight hours on Thursday searching for Sanchez, whose family members watched the recovery mission from the top of Inspiration Point from under a tent, with a sheriff’s chaplain 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.