Huntington Beach Man Drowns While Attempting Rescue in Laguna Beach


By Allison Jarrell | LB Indy

A 27-year-old Huntington Beach man, Javier Vargas Cuellar, has been identified as the swimmer who died Sunday night after attempting to rescue a fellow swimmer at Table Rock Beach in Laguna.

Sgt. Jim Cota, of the Laguna Beach Police Department, said police, fire and marine safety personnel responded to Table Rock at 7:40 p.m. after receiving a report of “three swimmers in distress.”

Cota said two men and a woman reportedly jumped off the rocks into the water to the north of Table Rock Beach. The swimmers quickly found themselves being pulled out to sea by a rip current. The two male swimmers were able to escape the current, but the woman was still struggling. Cuellar swam back out to help her, and with his help, she was able to swim back. But Cuellar didn’t make it back and was last seen going under the surface.

Cota said city and county lifeguards responded, made contact with the swimmers, and began a search for Cuellar.

“At one point, there were over 30 lifeguards in the water,” Cota said.

An Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) helicopter and an Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) Harbor Patrol boat responded to assist. Laguna Beach firefighters, Laguna Beach police and OCFA personnel established a command post.

At 8:30 p.m., lifeguards located Cuellar unresponsive in the water.

Cota said Cuellar was brought to the beach, hoisted onto the OCFA helicopter, and transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. He was declared dead at the hospital at 9:32 p.m.

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