Coast Guard halts search for missing Marine

Samuel Wanjiru (USMC)

Susannah Sudborough
masslive.com
(TNS)

The U.S. Coast Guard has halted its search for Worcester native Samuel Wanjiru — a 26-year-old Marine who was swept away by a rip current in Puerto Rico last week and has been missing since.

Wanjiru went missing while visiting Luquillo as part of a vacation with his family. On the afternoon of March 27, he entered the water at a nearby beach and “came into distress,” the Coast Guard said previously. Helicopters and other aircrafts were sent to search for Wanjiru that same day, but search efforts last week and throughout the weekend came up empty.

The Coast Guard suspended search efforts to locate Wanjiru on Sunday, it said in a press release. The initiative concluded after Coast Guard air and surface units had completed 14 air searches and one surface search that together covered 264 square nautical miles of ocean.

These units worked alongside the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau — who served as the lead agency during the search — multiple emergency management offices, Puerto Rico Police and other local emergency services agencies, the Coast Guard said.

“We keep Cpl. Samuel Wanjiru and his family in our prayers, hoping they find strength and closure during this most difficult time,” Coast Guard Capt. Jose Diaz said in the release.

During the month of March, the Coast Guard’s San Juan sector coordinated 10 search and rescue efforts, saving 12 people and losing six others to drownings, it said.

“The loss of life in Puerto Rico beaches during March has been quite surreal, including the loss of two service members. I commend the efforts of all responders, who have done their utmost to find Cpl. Wanjiru and who have also responded to numerous cases this month resulting in dozens of lives saved, while also conducting efforts to prevent any further loss of life in our beaches,” Diaz said in the release.

Wanjiru was a reserve Marine assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, in Chicopee, the 4th wing previously confirmed in a statement. At the time of his disappearance, he was not in an active-duty status or conducting military operations.

High surf and rip current conditions have persisted in Puerto Rico, according to the Coast Guard. Anyone planning to boat, swim or otherwise enter the water there should closely monitor National Weather Service advisories and take appropriate action to minimize risks. Diaz advised staying out of the water when necessary.

“Unfortunately, we continue to face similar marine conditions, and it’s imperative we remain ready,” Diaz said in the release.

The latest weather service information for Puerto Rico can be found here: https://www.weather.gov/sju/.

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