Dive teams expect to expand the area off Manhattan Beach they are working when they resume their search Thursday morning for a US Army veteran who went missing during a swim late Tuesday afternoon.
Derrick "DJ" Jeffries, 24, was with two friends who told a lifeguard they last saw him in the water about 50 yards out, and swam ashore without realizing he was no longer with them. The life guard station nearest to where the men were swimming, Tower 18, is not staffed during the off season.
A joint operation of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the County Fire Department Lifeguard Division deployed helicopters, rescue boats, and a dozen divers in the waters of Manhattan Beach.
Conditions in the surf are challenging, with both rip and lateral currents, and holes in the sandy ocean floor, said Lidia Barillas, Los Angeles County Ocean Lifeguard Specialist.
Citing the lateral current running parallel to the coastline, officials said it is possible Jeffries went under a considerable distance from where his friends came ashore.
"Iit stands to reason that he could be anywhere from 50 to several hundred yards awayt from that last known position, and that sort of alters our search area at that point," said Rescue Boat Captain Olivier O'Connell. For Thursday, he said it's likely divers will check again in the approximately two square miles they have already searched, and also move into new areas.
Carmina Jaime and her friend Piah Sanchez said they were sitting next to Jeffries and his friends at the beach. When only two of the men came out of the water after their swim, they saw them start to panic.
"The one kid was really frantic and you could tell he was really scared," Sanchez said.
The US Coast Guard joined the initial rescue response Tuesday evening, but suspended its operations Wednesday morning.
Family and friends gathered on the sand Tuesday evening, praying Jeffries would be found.
"Just pray -- that's all I can say. There are no words I can say to show what we're all going through right now," said Edwin Rivas, a friend of the victim.
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NBC4's Toni Guinyard and Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.