Benito Flores, 43, was doing a good deed when he was among several other people helping his cousin, Pastor Maurigro Cervantes, perform a baptism ceremony near the Guadalupe Dunes Preserve north of Santa Barbara.
Then the baptism ceremony took a turn for the worst. Flores, along with two other people, was swept out to sea by a huge wave. The two other men were able to make it back to shore, however Flores remains missing.
The US Coast Guard says the search for Mr. Flores was called off at around midnight Sunday night after searching since 10:00 local time. The baptism was just finishing up around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday when the church members were struck by the wave.
“A big wave came out and took Benito,” Mr. Cervantes told local broadcaster KEYT. “I tried to take him out, he was heavy and then another big wave came.”
Cervantes tried to save him, but “another big wave came and took him,” Cervantes told KCOY TV. “He is very good man, he is a good worker, he is a good neighbor, he is very nice.”
The US Coast Guard as well as other local rescue officials were involved in the search; however there are no plans to resume it.
Santa Barbara Fire Captain David Sadecki said it would be difficult for anyone to survive more than 30 minutes in the cold ocean water.
Mr. Cervantes, who leads the Jesus Christ Light of the Sky church in Santa Maria, said his church perform a baptism ceremony two or three times a year, according to the Santa Maria Times.
The preserve around the beach was also apparently being utilized as a filming location for the 1923 film version of The Ten Commandants, according to the preserve’s website. The website warns, “the surf can be very dangerous at this location.”