A teen who tumbled into a blowhole along a coastal cliff in Monterey County was believed to be dead on Tuesday, four days after authorities began searching for his body.
On Saturday, the 18-year-old was with a group hiking along trails at Garrapata State Beach, between Carmel and Big Sur, when they came across a marine geyser. When he leaned in closer to inspect the crevasse, he slipped and fell through it, according to Monterey County sheriff’s officials.
A Coast Guard spokeswoman told KSBW in Salinas that his friends reported he initially gave them a thumbs-up, “but after a few crashes of the waves, they were unable to locate him.”
The waves reached 14 feet high, lashing the coast in 9-second intervals, and flooded the area. Their force swept the teen out to sea, then pushed him underwater, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The last image posted to his Instagram page on Jan. 10 shows the scenic Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway 1 just north of Big Sur.
Ali Bowen told KION she called first responders after Stuntz’s friends approached her and asked if she had cellphone service.
But there was no sign of the teen by the time rescue crews arrived on scene. The Coast Guard, local sheriff’s office, California State Park rangers and lifeguards, Cal Fire, the Mid-Coast Fire Brigade and state Highway Patrol have all been involved in the search.
“At this time the young adult is classified as a missing person, however, operations have shifted into a recovery mode,” sheriff’s officials said.
Friends are already flooding Stuntz’s Instagram comments with memories and condolences.
The area of coastline where he plunged has signs warning visitors about climbing on the rocks, but sometimes that’s not enough, according to KION.
“For people who don’t know the risks it can be really alarming how easily you can slip and fall, and then be in big trouble,” local resident Jared Sandman told the station.