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Man swept away during baptism

Last updated 10:48 01/04/2014
Fairfax Aus

A 43-year-old California man is feared dead after he was swept out to sea during a beach baptism on Sunday.

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Rescuers have ended their search for a 43-year-old man swept to sea during a baptism ceremony on a Southern California beach.

A wave pulled three people into the ocean off Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve and only two managed to return to shore on their own.

Pastor Maurigro Cervantes of Jesus Christ Light of the Sky Church said his cousin, Benito Flores, was helping perform a baptism when he was swept away.

But an extensive search by emergency teams failed to find the missing man by nightfall, the Santa Maria Times reported.

Jesus Christ Light of the Sky, the Santa Maria church that put on the ceremony, performs similar baptisms two or three times a year, Pastor Mauro Cervantes told the paper. Most of the 25 people at the ceremony were Spanish speakers.

The pastor, Mauro Cervantes, told KCOY-TV that his cousin, Benito Flores, was helping him baptise a man when a rogue wave pulled him into the ocean. Cervantes said he tried to grab his cousin, but a second wave took him, The Associated Press reported. 

The cousin was dragged out with two other people just before 10am Pacific time at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, Cervantes told The Santa Maria Times. The other two returned to shore during the service.

Cervantes said, "A big wave came and took Benito, I tried to take him out, he was heavy and then another big wave came," he told KCOY TV.

The second wave pulled his cousin from the shore.

The preserve, just south of the town of Guadalupe, has sand dunes that tower 167 metres high, the tallest on the West Coast. Park authorities warn on their website that the surf at the spot can be "very dangerous."

Officials said it would be difficult for anyone to survive more than 30 minutes in the cold water.

-The Washington Post, AP

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