SUNSET BEACH (CBS) — The search for a missing body boarder turned into a recovery mission early Thursday morning.
Jowayne Benford, 25, was reported missing by three friends Wednesday evening.
A strong current pulled four men from Huntington Beach up to Seal Beach shortly after they were warned to stay close to shore because the lifeguard tower was closing.
Only three of the men made it out of the water safely.
“The one gentleman was caught in a rip current and got pulled out and his friends lost sight of him,” a lifeguard official told CBS 2.
“He didn’t order them out of the water,” witness Mike Spainhower told CBS2. “He said, ‘You need to stay close to the shore for your own safety.’ It’s just a tragic, tragic thing and like I said, if I could say to that young man, ‘Hey, you had better listen to what that lifeguard is saying.’”
Lifeguards searched through the night from the water, shore and air with no sign of Benford. His body board washed ashore without him. Early Thursday morning, the search turned into a rescue mission, focusing on a near-by jetty.
Waves of up to 12 feet pummeled south- and southwest-facing beaches in Orange County Wednesday and Thursday.
“Don’t ever give up, just have faith. You just pray to God,” Gail Benford, Jowayne’s mother said.
An unexpected surge of high tide flooded streets and parking lots near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach. It even pushed cars up to five feet from where they were parked and carried heavy trash cans.
Giant piles of sand have been put in place, but high surf is expected throughout Labor Day weekend.