Wave Sweeps Teen From Rocks

Guards search the southern cave on Thousand Steps Beach for a missing man as waves intensified Monday. Photo by Andrea Adelson.
Guards search the southern cave on Thousand Steps Beach for a missing man as waves intensified Monday. Photo by Andrea Adelson.

OC Lifeguards throughout the week continued to search the shoreline between Aliso and Salt Creek Beach for an 18-year-old Nevada man, who was swept from the rocks of Thousand Steps Beach by a strong west swell on Sunday.

Waves of five to eight feet prevented lifeguards from diving in the area in the immediate aftermath of the teen’s disappearance as well as early in the week, Captain Jason Young said Wednesday.

On Sunday, the teen, identified by his parents as Anthony Parnell, and three friends were making their way across a rock outcropping at high tide about 1:30 p.m. when they were struck by a large wave and Parnell was swept into the water, OC Fire Authority spokesman Capt. Steve Concialdi said.

Waves that wash over these rocks drain toward a blowhole and on Sunday were forceful enough to drag the young man in, said Young, describing what witnesses recalled.

“A rogue wave can easily sweep someone away,” Concialdi added.

The visitors from Las Vegas had clambered across a rock ledge on the south side of a large cave, accessible when sand has built up at the south end of a crescent cove. “That’s a no-man’s land,” Young said, describing a section of coastline south of the cave and beneath the gated community of Three Arch Bay that is generally submerged at high tide.

Though technically outside their responsibility, guards regularly warn exploring beach-goers in the area of the danger from unexpectedly large waves and missteps on uneven, jagged surfaces. “It’s an educational challenge,” Young said, adding his own precaution to visitors. “If you don’t see a lifeguard, you shouldn’t be there,” he said.

On Monday, lifeguards searched the point on land while another on a water craft zig-zagged back and forth, jousting with waves as swell conditions intensified to 10 feet. Helicopters also searched the area both Sunday and Monday.

“Every minute counts. We try to send as many resources as possible,” Concialdi said.

Parnell’s parents, who drove from Las Vegas Sunday, kept a vigil on beach, watching as lifeguards searched the area.


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