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‘Treacherous’ Pacifica waves sweep two people away, one still missing

Large waves along the coast in Pacifica swept away two victims on Tuesday, according to the North County Fire Authority. One victim was rescued and the other still has not been found.

The first victim, a man, was swept away on Tuesday morning off the Pacifica coast near Beach Boulevard and Paloma Avenue. Officials from the North County Fire Authority responded to a call around 7:40 a.m. about the man, who witnesses said had been standing on rocks before being swept into the ocean.

The Fire Authority responded with two engines, a truck and a rescue unit, along with Battalion Chief Jeff Huntze at the scene.

Huntze said:

“Yesterday (Tuesday) the waves were really big. It was so treacherous that even a strong swimmer would have a really tough time.”

Officials said waves reached up to 25 feet on Tuesday, and the National Weather Service Bay Area had a high surf advisory in place from Tuesday morning through Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. Coast Guard joined the search with two helicopters and two lifeboats.

Brocken Inaglory “Treacherous” waves in Pacifica, Calif. swept away two people Tuesday, December 8, 2020. One woman was rescued by bystanders but the search continued for another man the next day.

Petty Officer Taylor Bacon of the Coast Guard said that the conditions were dangerous for their rescue team. He said the San Mateo County Fire Department, which also responded to the scene, had a visual on the person in the water, but the whitewash and tall waves made it difficult for the Coast Guard to see the person from the air.

After searching for about five hours, rescue teams had not located the man and the search was suspended around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Bacon said:

“At that time, we were running low on fuel so our helicopter went back to base to refuel. At that point they had lost visual on the member and the scene became too dangerous for responders to be in the vicinity, so we suspended our search.”

Bacon said on Wednesday that there were no plans for the Coast Guard to resume the search.

The second victim, a middle-aged woman, was walking her dog on Tuesday afternoon along the coast of Linda Mar Beach when she was pulled into the ocean.

Huntze said a man who was flying a drone nearby saw the woman go under. He dropped the drone and waded into the water to assist, wrestling with the woman for a couple minutes before another bystander got in the water to help.

Together, the two bystanders pulled the woman out of the water and onto the sand.

Huntze said:

“Those two citizens honestly saved her life.”

The North County Fire Authority received the call about the woman at 1:19 p.m. Tuesday. A team evaluated the woman’s condition, then transported her to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.

Huntze advised people to stay diligent on the beaches, especially on days with high surf advisories.

Huntze said:

“For folks that don’t live around here, we always tell them not to turn their back on the surf, even if it’s a small wave.”

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