Ben Kerbs, 52, was reportedly last seen alive by his wife while paddling away from Playa Escondida in Fajardo. The lifeguards found his body on a beach roughly a mile away.
Just before 2 p.m. on Thursday, Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan received a 911 call reporting distress, the release states. Watchstanders launched a MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Borinquen to search for Kerbs.
Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action were unable to reach the area because of a heavy sea and surf conditions, the release states.
The Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau and multiple Municipal Emergency Management Offices throughout the northeastern area of the island also responded.
During Thursday’s search efforts, two lifeguards that were attempting to rescue Kerbs were reportedly overcome by dangerous sea state conditions and required rescue assistance.
A Coast Guard helicopter safely rescued them, but following that rescue, they reported seeing Kerb’s body face down and unresponsive in the water.
Capt. José E. Díaz, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan, said he extends his heartfelt condolences to Kerb’s family and loved ones, and cautioned people going to the beach this weekend to be aware of life-threatening rip currents.
“Water conditions are dangerous even for even the strongest of swimmers and surfers. Most beaches on the island do not have lifeguards, it is crucial people maintain situational awareness and notify authorities when you see signs of trouble, this could save a life,” Díaz said.
Puerto Rico multi-agency search and rescue teams reportedly used personnel and drone equipment to monitor the coastline from Carolina to Ceiba, Puerto Rico.
Nino Correa, commissioner of the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau said rescue teams from PREMB, state, municipal, and federal authorities worked hard to find and recover Kerbs’s body.
“In cases like this, we do not rest until we can save the life of the person in need or find the body to bring closure to the family involved,” Correa said. “Also, we remind people that there is a high risk of dangerous rip currents so no one should visit our beaches, at least until Sunday.”