Coast Guard Ends Search for Marine Who Went Missing While Swimming at Beach

Rescue team searches for 26-year-old Samuel Wanjiru
Rescue team searches for 26-year-old Samuel Wanjiru, reported missing near La Pared beach in Luquillo, Puerto Rico. (Negociado para el Manejo de Emergencias y Administración de Desastres photo)

The Coast Guard on Monday suspended search efforts for a Marine who went missing last week while swimming off the coast of Puerto Rico in high surf. The statement follows an announcement from local authorities Sunday that said they halted active search efforts for the missing Marine.

Cpl. Samuel Wanjiru, 26, was visiting the U.S. territory with his family. Someone called 911 to report he had become distressed while swimming near the eastern side of the island off a beach in the town of Luquillo.

The U.S. Coast Guard told on Monday that the territory's emergency management bureau had taken the lead in the search on Thursday.

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Search efforts became "passive" after the Puerto Rican bureau said Sunday that "the disappearance of a 26-year-old young man was reported on La Pared beach in Luquillo, whose active search continued until today."

"From tomorrow onwards, nearby coastal municipalities will be watching their coasts as part of a passive search," according to a bureau press release, which was provided to and translated by the Coast Guard.

The search for the Marine, a Massachusetts native, continued throughout last week with Coast Guard assets deployed alongside local authorities. The search for Wanjiru came after the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau said two other swimmers were reported dead. Other swimmers were rescued after being dragged out by sea currents.

Wanjiru is a reserve Marine with 4th Marine Aircraft Wing out of Chicopee, Massachusetts. He serves as a motor vehicle operator for the unit, according to 4th MAW.

"At the time of his disappearance, Wanjiru was not in an active-duty status or conducting military operations," a statement from the unit said. "4th Marine Aircraft Wing is concerned for the Marine's welfare and is in communication with Wanjiru's family, local authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard while the search for Wanjiru continues."

The territory's National Meteorological Service said that swells would affect the coast, specifically the west, north and east of the island at the time and location where Wanjiru was reported to have been swimming. Local Puerto Rican authorities said that Wanjiru's disappearance was reported at 3:47 p.m. Wednesday.

The Coast Guard said it launched an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft and MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters to help with the search. Local authorities aided in the search with jet ski patrols in the area.

"We keep Cpl. Samuel Wanjiru and his family in our prayers, hoping they find strength and closure during this most difficult time," Capt. Jose Diaz, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander, said in a statement Monday.

"The loss of life in Puerto Rico beaches during March has been quite surreal, including the loss of two service members," he said, referencing a member of the National Guard, Staff Sgt. Fidel Cruz Llanos, who died while trying to save a tourist from drowning in the Puerto Rican surf.

"I commend the efforts of all responders, who have done their utmost to find Cpl. Wanjiru and who have also responded to numerous cases this month resulting in dozens of lives saved, while also conducting efforts to prevent any further loss of life in our beaches," he said.

Throughout the week and weekend Puerto Rico's State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management posted several updates on the search and warnings to the public, saying that it was not suitable for swimmers to go in the water in the north, west and east of the island. Those conditions would last through "at least Tuesday," the agency said.

Related: Marine Missing After Swimming in Puerto Rico; Coast Guard Searching Coastal Waters

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