[UPDATED With Body ID'd as Missing Swimmer's:] Joewayne Benford Disappears in Pounding Surf
California State Parks rangers found the abandoned boat split in half on rocks northwest of Malibu, where they also discovered about 240 gallons of fuel and 500 pounds of marijuana packaged in burlap bags, some of which washed ashore.
Authorities suspect boat operators for a drug cartel didn't check conditions before setting off and encountering the high waves that threw the tub into the rocks.
Rescuers from various agencies have searched a 78-square-mile area from Newport Beach up to Long Beach for the 24-year-old, who disappeared in the strong rip currents off Seal Beach Wednesday evening.
Benford's family described him as a strong swimmer.
UPDATE, SEPT. 1, 11:11 A.M.: The U.S. Coast Guard Thursday morning identified the missing swimmer off Seal Beach as Joewayne Benford of Long Beach.
His age has also been corrected; he's 24.
Benford's family was on the beach today, searching for their loved one.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 1, 8:49 A.M.: The heavy surf expected to hit Orange County shores arrived early.
And it's already claimed a victim, apparently.
Only the board had washed ashore at last report.
He and three friends had been tangling with 5- to 7-foot waves with 10-foot surges before his buddies informed lifeguards of the man's disappearance around 6:30 p.m. He was last seen about 200 feet from shore.
As the lifeguard station was closing, the foursome had been told to remain close to shore due to the rough surf, according to authorities.
The U.S. Coast Guard, the Orange County Sheriff Department's Harbor Patrol and lifeguards from Seal Beach and Long Beach participated in the search that stretched overnight and into first light today. Divers, helicopters and patrol boats have been on the scene.
|Photo by Chasen Marshall/OC Weekly|
Heavy surf forecast for the Wedge that was supposed to come today also arrived early, sending bodyboarders into the drink and lookiloos onto the shore.
Sets are expected to continue rising there through the weekend, and lifeguards are warning that only expert riders should paddle out into Balboa's world-famous breaks.
A National Weather Service high surf advisory is in effect until 5 p.m. Friday along the Orange County coast, particularly south-facing beaches. This comes courtesy of a strong storm off the coast of New Zealand.