BIG SUR, CA (KION/CNN) - Following several days of searching, rescue efforts have switched into recovery for an 18-year-old who fell into a blowhole on the California coast, according to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.
Friends are starting to fear the worst after 18-year-old Braxton Stuntz tumbled into the water, dropping 15 feet between two rocks at Garrapata State Park Saturday.
The frantic moments following Stuntz’s fall off the rocky edge were caught on tape, as friends and a witness searched for him. According to the sheriff’s office, the 18-year-old was quickly swept underwater by 14-foot waves.
“So, a young man came up to us - he was kind of nervous - and he said, ‘Do you have cell phone service? Our friend fell in a hole between two rocks into the water, and we can’t get him out,’” said Ali Bowen, a witness who called first responders.
Witness Kitty Arosteguy said Stuntz’s friends kept him in their sights until he lost consciousness.
The Coast Guard continued their search until sundown Sunday but didn’t find Stuntz.
“Even though responders came quickly ... I mean, we moved as fast as we could, the EMT moved as fast as they could, and it wasn’t fast enough,” Bowen said.
Now, Stuntz’s Instagram profile is filled with commenters remembering him and wishing love. One friend says she’s known the 18-year-old for years and described him as a hardworking student who loved to take pictures and go on adventures.
People that visit the park often say the area where Stuntz fell has signs warning people about climbing on the rocks, but many underestimate the dangers.
"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,” said local resident Jared Sandman.
Bowen believes more resources are needed in the area in case of an emergency.
"There has to be a faster way for individuals to help themselves or help someone in need, rather than just relying on first responders to be the first there,” she said. “If they had something immediate nearby them, to at least preserve his life a little bit longer ... I feel like if we had five more minutes, it might have been a different story.”
Now, friends and witnesses who watched the incident happen are left to face the possibility that a young man’s life was cut tragically short.
Stuntz was still classified as a missing person, as of Monday, but the sheriff’s office said the search has shifted from rescue to recovery mode.