Search for Marine who went missing enters new phase

Samuel Wanjiru (USMC)

Charlie McKenna

The search for a 26-year-old Worcester marine who was swept away by strong currents while vacationing in Puerto Rico has entered a “passive” phase, Puerto Rican authorities said.

Samuel Wanjiru was the subject of an active search effort over the course of several days beginning Wednesday, when he “came into distress after going into the water,” according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Wanjiru was in the beach area of La Pared in Luquillo, Puerto Rico when he disappeared amid high surf and life-threatening rip currents on Puerto Rican beaches.

Search efforts for the Worcester native were conducted by land, air, and sea, with Puerto Rican authorities posting images on social media of helicopters circling the waters and divers ducking below the surface in an attempt to find the man.

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

Another man had been pulled dead from the water just hours before Wanjiru went in, the Coast Guard said, at a different beach called Montones Beach in Isabela, P.R. Coast Guard officials were alerted and tried to save the man, but he died after his rescue.

“This month has been deadly when it comes to beach drownings in the area of Puerto Rico,” said Capt. Jose E. Díaz, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan.

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