More Than 100 People Hold Vigil for Swimmer Who Drowned | NBC Southern California

More Than 100 People Hold Vigil for Swimmer Who Drowned

A group of friends jumped 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

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    Friends of an 18-year-old who drowned off the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes gathered to mourn his loss as the teen's father cried out for his return. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. Thursday, July 10, 2014. (Published Thursday, July 10, 2014)

    More than 100 people gathered Thursday night in front of the home of a teenager who fell into the ocean and is presumed dead.

    The group, mostly teenagers, gathered at the Long Beach home of Joseph Sanchez, 18, setting up candles in a makeshift memorial.

    "Joseph (was) really brave, he was brave just by jumping off the cliff. People might call him, call him dumb, but he was just a daredevil," said Toogee Zepeda, who was with Sanchez prior to his disappearance. "He had a lot of heart too as well. He just jumped in the ocean."

    Divers ended two days of searching the waters off Rancho Palos Verdes Thursday evening and were expected to resume the search at daybreak Friday.

    Sanchez drowned when he was swept off a rock by a wave in Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes on Tuesday.

    The swimmer's friend helped him get to a rock, but he was swept away.

    "I jumped in after, we picked up Toogee after. With my friend Carlos. And we just, we didn't see him in there," Danny Torres said.

    It appeared that Sanchez's family was struggling to accept that he was gone, his father crying "bring him back!" at Thursday night's vigil.

    Friends, some of whom describe Sanchez as "one of the best guys you could meet," are now raising money to pay for his funeral.

    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.

    Zepeda said he and his friends were jumping into the surf in Abalone Cove when Sanchez started yelling for help and could not grab a rope that was thrown to him.

    "He jumped in. The current started taking him. He started crying for help," Zepeda said. "He couldn't grab onto the rope."

    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.

    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.

    Torres says he'll never swim there again.

    I'll go back and you know, say some prayers, and just visit him. Every July 9th," Torres said.

    Fire officials on Thursday announced they would restrict access to Abalone Cove until Sunday. Lifeguards also closed Inspiration and Portuguese Points in Rancho Palos Verdes to swimmers until sundown Sunday due to overload of ocean rescues.

    Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, a big South swell kicked up off the Southern California coast, bringing big waves and dangerous currents.

    Hetty Chang and Samia Khan contributed to this report.

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