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Man swept off the rocks by high waves

February 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Strong rip currents and high waves pounded the Southern California coastline Monday, triggering a high surf advisory. The dangerous surf swept a man out to sea Sunday at around 7 p.m. in Rancho Palos Verdes. Deputies say the man was sightseeing along the Palos Verdes Peninsula when he was washed off the rocks.

Rescue crews mostly searched by chopper Monday for 23-year-old James Jun-Hee Ko. Divers say that the surf was to erratic Monday for them to enter the water. Rescue boats covered a large area searching for the missing man.

The victim's father spent hours looking out at the waves Monday near the area where his son was swept away.

"My son and his friends were not out on the rocks near the water fishing. My son and two or three of his friends were rock throwing when a big wave came and hit them. One of my son's friends was far enough from the waves to escape. But my son did not make it out," said Ko's father.

Authorities say that while the victim was swept away one of his friends, who was knocked over, managed to pull himself out of the water with just cuts and bruises.

Family members of the victim remain hopeful that his body will be found. Authorities say that intensifying the search will depend on mother nature. At the moment they say that it is just too risky to put divers in the water.

"It's difficult with the very large surf and there's a lot of water moving around," said Captain Danny Douglas, L.A. County diver. "We saw a set up to 30-feet, one wave that was up to 30-feet. Typical sets are 20-feet and most of the surf is between 10- and 15-feet."

Rescue crews say that conditions Sunday were even more treacherous. The victim's family lives in Rancho Palos Verdes. They say that residents time to time will climb down to the rocks to fish or to watch the waves.

The victim's father says that he did not know that his son was on the rocks.

"If I had known that the surf was as dangerous as it was yesterday, I would have been worried about him being down there," said Ko's father.

Authorities say that it is a good practice to just stay away when the surf is high.

"We advise people to stay off of the rocks," said Inspector Garrido. "You know, if you are not an avid swimmer or familiar with the ocean, just, you know, stay out of the water."

For rescuers the clock is ticking. It's not just the waves they are worried about, but the water temperature. There's only so long anyone can survive in the conditions.

"We stay in a search and rescue mode until the victim is found and then we, you know, depending on what the foreseen circumstances are, then we'll go to recovery if need be," said Inspector Frank Garrido, L.A. County Fire.

The greatest hope for searchers and family members now is that the man somehow made it to the shore and is clinging to life in the rocks or along the cliff edge. It's a long shot but in conditions like this it may be his only chance of survival.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department assisted in the search.

A high surf advisory is in effect until Tuesday morning.

Eyewitness News reporters Leo Stallworth and John Gregory contributed to this report.

 

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