- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2014

A California man is feared to have drowned after he was swept out to sea Sunday during a baptism ceremony off a Central Coast beach, police said.

Rescuers scoured the waters Sunday and continued into the evening for 43-year-old Benito Flores, who was swept away at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, west of the small town of Guadalupe.

Pastor Maurigro Cervantes of Jesus Christ Light of the Sky was in the water about 10 a.m. performing the baptism on Mr. Flores, while the man’s cousin was assisting.

“A big wave came and took Benito, I tried to take him out, he was heavy and then another big wave came,” Mr. Cervantes told a local Fox affiliate.

The waves took all three of the men out to sea, but the other two were able to make it back to safety.

“There were three people initially, two were able to self-rescue and the one, is the one that’s unaccounted for,” Santa Barbara County Battalion Chief Diondray Wiley told the station.

Rescue crews from several local fire departments along with a U.S. Coast Guard boat were searching for Mr. Flores.

Officials were expected to return to the scene on Monday to continue the search.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.