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Coast Guard ends search for man swept into ocean in Depoe Bay, presumed dead

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter continues to search for a 44-year-old man from Mexico after he was swept away by high surf in Depoe Bay Thursday morning.

Crews have ended the search to locate a 46-year-old man who was swept out to sea on Thursday in Depoe Bay.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it won't resume searching for the man Friday because of poor ocean conditions. The man is presumed to be dead.

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Adam Johnson told KATU that around 11 a.m ., when waves were more than 20 feet high, the man climbed over a seawall to get a closer look at the ocean.

“The report is that he hopped over the wall and climbed down the rocks to get a better look at the Spouting Horn," Johnson said. "And when he was looking down into one of the crevices a wave came up and knocked him over, he fell into the hole and was washed out to sea.”

Spouting Horn is a local geographic feature composed of large rocks on the shoreline.

“When big enough waves come in and hit, it sort of funnels the water so it shoots straight up in the air," Johnson explained.

Johnson said around four people were with the man at the time and around 100 people saw it all happen. He said authorities had to bring in an interpreter because the person who called for help didn't speak English.

Lt. Cari Boyd, an Oregon State Police spokesperson, said they know the man's identity but they won't release it until they notify his family.

"I am not sure when that's going to happen because he is from Mexico with no known family in the area," Boyd told KATU via email. "We are working with the Mexican consulate to get that done."

Johnson said due to dangerous conditions Depoe Bay was closed to boat traffic on Thursday. He said the search for the man was conducted until 8 p.m. by helicopter and ground crews composed of members of the Coast Guard, Oregon State Police, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and the Depoe Bay Fire District.

Johnson said people need to remember to keep their distance from the ocean when conditions are treacherous.

"Big waves bring big crowds," he said. "It's amazing to see the power of mother nature but it's also extremely dangerous, so on a big swell time you should stay off the jetties, off the rocks. The rocks are very slippery. You shouldn't get too close on the beach."

Eyewitness video shows the search operation in progress amid giant waves.

Forecasters predicted the coast was going to be hit by a strong storm through the day Thursday.

"This is NOT the time to be on beaches & jetties," the National Weather Service warned people heading out to get a view of the storm and waves.

Large "sneaker" waves have killed more than two dozen people along the Oregon coast since 1990. The incidents generally occur during late fall and winter.

The Oregon Parks Department closed several beach access spots because of high surf, erosion, and debris, including where this sneaker wave incident took place:

  • Fort Stevens Peter Iredale
  • Lincoln City D River Wayside and the Road’s End
  • Cape Kiwanda
  • Newport South Jetty
  • Boiler Bay Viewpoint
  • West parking area at Heceta Head Lighthouse

From Oregon State Police:

"People are urged to be aware of the sneaker waves, high water, debris pattern from ocean waves, and not to cross closed parking lots or parks that are closed due to the ocean conditions."

Correction: Any earlier version contained incorrect information from Oregon State Police regarding the man's age. He was 46, not 44.

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