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Search continues for swimmer missing off Seal Beach

September 1, 2011 |  8:39 am

Officials identified a swimmer missing off Seal Beach as Jowayne Binford, 26, of Long Beach.

A search was scaled back due to darkness Wednesday, but the U.S. Coast Guard resumed its efforts Thursday across a 61-square-mile swath of ocean, said Coast Guard spokesman Trent Kelly.

The search was made more difficult because of conditions, including 5- to 7-foot waves with crests reported as high as 10 feet.

“It was difficult for boats to be able to get there and work the surf like we like to,” Kelly said Thursday. “It’s a little calmer today.”

Binford went swimming with several friends Wednesday but failed to return with them when they left the water because of difficult conditions. He was last seen by lifeguards around 6 p.m., officials said.

At the time, he was about 200 yards offshore between Sunset Beach and the northern entrance of Anaheim Bay, Kelly said.

“He was seen in the water and all of a sudden he was not seen in the water,” Kelly said.

The search was being conducted by a Coast Guard cutter, a second boat and a helicopter, a Huntington Beach police helicopter, and Orange County Sheriff’s Department boats.

Lifeguards combed the coastline, and Seal Beach police coordinated the entire effort.

NBC Los Angeles on Thursday morning interviewed a woman identified as Gayle Binford, the missing man’s mother, who was waiting anxiously on the beach.

“He’s a very good swimmer,” Binford said of her son.

She added that one or more of her son’s companions “should have stayed out” with him if he was having trouble in the water.

Video: KTLA report on the missing swimmer.


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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Gail Benford, right, overcome with grief, is comforted by her daughter Jody after the two walked along Sunset Beach on the morning after Benford's son, Jowayne, went missing in the waters off Sunset Beach. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times