California man washed out to sea during baptism

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Officials warned the surf near the area can be dangerous

A California man remains missing a day after he was swept out to sea during an ocean baptism.

Benito Flores, 43, was among several people helping his cousin, Pastor Maurigro Cervantes, baptise a man near the Guadalupe Dunes Preserve north of Santa Barbara.

Two others were swept out by a huge wave but were able to swim to shore.

The US Coast Guard says the search for Mr Flores was called off at midnight on Sunday.

The baptism was just finishing up at 10:00 local time (17:00 GMT) on Sunday when the church members were hit by the wave.

"A big wave came and took Benito," Mr Cervantes told local broadcaster KEYT. "I tried to take him out, he was heavy and then another big wave came."

The US Coast Guard as well as local rescue officials were involved in the search but 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 water.

Mr Cervantes, who leads the Jesus Christ Light of the Sky church in Santa Maria, said his church performed such ceremonies two or three times a year, according to the Santa Maria Times.

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