By JOHN SCHREIBER
City News Service
A swimmer whose friend helped him get to a rock in Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes but was swept away by a wave today drowned.
KCAL9 reported that a 19-year-old Long Beach man drowned and the search for his body was expected to resume tomorrow morning.
A report of swimmers in distress came in at 2:57 p.m., with firefighters and lifeguards arriving on the scene within minutes, according to Scott Miller of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
County Fire Inspector Keith Mora said crews received a report of a submerged swimmer and spotted someone underwater.
Toogee Zepeda said he and his friends were jumping into the surf in Abalone Cove when one of them started yelling for help and could not grab a rope that was thrown to him.
"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," 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," Zepeda said.
A multi-agency search effort involving the Los Angeles County Fire, Los Angeles Fire and Los Angeles County Sheriff's departments and the U.S. Coast Guard was continuing three hours later.
Miller said dozens of people have been rescued from the area since the beginning of the month -- including five youngsters who became stranded on the rocks on Tuesday.
"People seem to feel a little more comfortable than they should. This environment is extremely dangerous. There's slippery rocks, there's a bad egress to get out and conditions are always changing," Miller told Video News West.
Zepeda said he and his friends come to the spot every week.
"We didn't think much of it," Zepeda said.