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Recovery Mission Continues For Missing Swimmer Off Rancho Palos Verdes

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RANCHO PALOS VERDES (CBSLA.com) — A recovery operation continued Thursday for a 19-year-old Long Beach man who drowned at Abalone Cove.

Crews were using a helicopter, two boats and 14 drivers to search for the body of Joseph Sanchez who jumped into the waters off Rancho Palos Verdes just before 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Sanchez was swimming with several others when they became distressed in the rough waters.

Friends attempted to save Sanchez by throwing him a rope, but they were unable to reach him and went for help.

“Out of instinct I just jumped in and I tried to save him, but I couldn’t carry him on my back. I couldn’t swim back,” Toogee  Zepeda said, adding that he put his friend on a rock and told him to stay put.

Zepeda said by the time help came, his friend was “nowhere to be seen.”

“Every time we had air, another wave kept coming on top of us,” he added.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department Wednesday night said the rescue operation was now a recovery mission.

“We believe he probably got sucked into the cave and is somewhere in the cave,” one official said. “We will have rescue swimmers on scuba and rescue swimmers who are just surface swimmers in case we get entanglements — there’s kelp down there, there’s rocks.”

Sanchez’s friends took to Twitter to express their sadness.

City leaders are now asking all swimmers to stay out of the waters off Rancho Palos Verdes because of the surges, tides and strong currents.

In total, there have been more than 30 rescues at Abalone Cove since Sunday when video captured good Samaritans pulling a man out of the waters, the Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor said.

A group of teens were also rescued from nearby rocks on Tuesday.

Lifeguards say social media has popularized the cove, despite its dangers.

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