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

Rescue team searches for Samuel Wanjiru at a beach in Puerto Rico
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 said Thursday it is searching for a Marine who went missing off the coast of Puerto Rico after having gone out swimming in high surf.

According to the Coast Guard, 26-year-old Samuel Wanjiru went swimming in the beach area of "La Pared" in Luquillo on the western side of the U.S. territory near San Juan on Wednesday afternoon when he became distressed and a 911 call went out.

Wanjiru is a Massachusetts resident who was visiting the island with his family, according to the statement. reached out to the Marine Corps for more information about Wanjiru's service history but did not hear back in time for publication.

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After receiving the 911 call, the Coast Guard said it launched an MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter to search for the Marine. On Thursday, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft and MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen were part of the search, along with "multiple Office of Emergency Management offices in the area" and Puerto Rico police, the statement noted.

The commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Capt. José Díaz, said in a statement that "this month has been deadly when it comes to beach drownings in the area of Puerto Rico."

On the same day that Wanjiru went missing, the Coast Guard helped recover another distressed swimmer off Montones Beach in Isabela, Puerto Rico. He was recovered unresponsive and later declared dead.

The National Weather Service had issued advisories since Tuesday warning swimmers that "a high risk of life-threatening rip currents" was present along the majority of the island's northern coastline.

"People need to realize that the situation is serious enough to limit our ability to respond to search-and-rescue cases with surface vessels without further endangering our crews and assets," Díaz warned.

Puerto Rico's State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management also warned people "to NOT go to beaches this week because they are dangerous due to high tide" in a Facebook post providing updates on the search for Wanjiru.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost their loved ones to the sea, we hope they find strength during this most difficult time," Díaz said.

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