Authorities on Sunday confirmed the body discovered in the area where a teenage swimmer went missing in waters off Rancho Palos Verdes was that of 18-year-old Joseph Sanchez, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
The discovery was made shortly after 11:30 a.m. inside a sea cave at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park (map), according to a news release from the department.
The body was first spotted by one of Sanchez’s relatives, who had been assisting in the search for the 18-year-old, a lifeguard assisting in the search told KTLA. The family member informed officials, who then initiated the recovery.
“It was right there. It was right there. So I don’t know what happened, whether the tides brought it up,” a sheriff’s deputy at the scene said.
The was recovered about 50 yards from where he was last seen, the release stated.
The family positively identified Sanchez several hours later at about 3 p.m., according to the release.
Sanchez, a resident of Long Beach, had not been seen since Wednesday afternoon, when he and a group of friends went cliff diving at nearby Inspiration Point.
According to Toogee Zepeda, a friend of the teen’s, Sanchez jumped into the water and was knocked into the rocks by the high surf before being swept into a cave.
Zepeda went in after his friend, but left to flag down help after the two quickly became overwhelmed by the pounding and dangerous surf.
By the time lifeguards arrived, Sanchez, who was last seen holding onto the rocks, had disappeared. Divers searched the rest of the day during daylight hours but found no sign of the teen.
The following day, officials stated that the rescue effort had become a recovery mission.
A multi-agency search got underway a short-time later and included the L.A. County fire and sheriff’s departments, county lifeguards and personnel from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
An autopsy would be conducted to determine how Sanchez died, according to the coroner’s office.
KTLA’s Alberto Mendez contributed to this report.