OCEAN SHORES — The official search has been called off, but authorities in Ocean Shores ran extra patrols Monday aimed at finding the body of Paul Alimoren, 18, of Pomona, Calif., missing and presumed drowned when he apparently was swept away in a riptide while trying to save companions Saturday evening.
“There is no active search, but we are doing as much as we can,” with firefighters, state park patrols and police running extra patrols, “because obviously we want to find him before somebody else does. Nobody needs that kind of trauma,” Ocean Shores Police Sgt. David McManus said.
The father of Alimoren flew up from California on Sunday.
Meantime, the City of Ocean Shores’ decision last year to eliminate its surf rescue program due to budget problems, was an issue at Monday night’s council meeting.
The missing man, initially identified as Renelle Paul Alimoren, helped two of his friends to shore before being swept out again by the rip current, the police said.
He was last spotted in the surf at about 8:30 p.m., about half a mile south of where he first entered the water off West Chance a la Mer. He had traveled to the area with a youth pastor and several others, all from California, McManus said.
“I understand it was a church group,” McManus said.
“You get to a place where you think you are done with tears, and you’re not,” Pastor Jay Nepomuceno told KCAL9’s reporter Bobby Kaple Sunday night at a vigil and prayer service held in Alimoren’s honor at the Lighthouse Baptist Church in La Verne, Calif. He was leading the group on the trip.
“They were overwhelmed by one wave that brought all of them down,” Nepomuceno told Kaple. “Two of the boys initially started screaming for help.”
Friends said Alimoren was visiting the Harbor with seven friends. Five were able to make it back to shore relatively easily. Two of the group had to be treated by paramedics for exhaustion and for possibly ingesting seawater.
Alimoren’s brother Philip says the family is devastated, the story posted on CBSLA.com said. “My mom, she couldn’t even talk. She was just weeping,” Philip said.
He knows his brother — a Cal State Fullerton accounting major on a full-ride scholarship — died a hero, the story said.
“When they got caught by the rip tide, my brother went in after them to save his best friend,” Philip Alimoren told Kaple.
Sunday night, friends and family recalled the young man’s passion for Bible study, sense of humor and his infectious laugh.
“He did everything,” his brother recalls. “He was very athletic. He led our team to a couple of championships in basketball. He was really good in football, too.”
The pastor told the CBS affiliate that Alimoren was a great kid on or off any field or court.
“He was an incredible leader,” says Nepomuceno, “He was really one of the best teenagers I’ve ever worked with. He was very talented musically, athletically — but humble as well. He was just a good, Christian young man.”
As details emerge from friends and family, McManus said Alimoren may deserve some sort of honor. That will have to wait until “(we) can get him home first,” he said.
Riptides can be strong around Ocean Shores, McManus cautioned. Police recommend people wade in only as high as their knees.
This is the first loss to drowning in several years, McManus said. “We had a really bad summer when we lost three. The Chief (Mike Styner) had that statistic and the precise year it happened,” he said.
On social media sites, several people pointed out that the city dropped its surf and rescue program.
“This is a real tragedy. Our hearts and thoughts are with the young man and his family,” Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler said Monday afternoon. She added that the council meeting was not the time to discuss restoring Surf Rescue’s $55,000 budget.
“On the heels of a tragedy like that is not the time to discuss the subject at all,” she said acknowledging that the seven members of the council may feel differently. Dingler may weigh in at the meeting, it depends on what people have to say, she said.
The city’s budget hit rock bottom recently, she said. The council contemplated getting rid of some firefighters (who are paramedics, too) and police officers, but chose to eliminate the Surf Rescue program, she said.
“It didn’t make sense to keep special teams when we’d have to get rid of people to do that,” Dingler said.
Surf Rescue was a program in which specially-trained members go out into the surf on rescues in (donated) water vehicles, she said. Two members of the squad have been lost at sea over the years, one around 10 years ago and one about “five or six years ago. It’s a dangerous business,” Dingler said.
On Saturday night the area was searched for hours after dark by the U.S. Coast Guard, a life boat and a helicopter, she said. Local paramedics treated the swimmers who made it to shore, she said. “They did a magnificent job,” she added.
Dingler returned to the loss of Alimoren’s life.
“I just can’t imagine the feelings of his parents. It’s just a difficult time,” the mayor said.
She referred to the tragedy again at the council meeting that night. “We did have a tragedy in our ocean this weekend,” Dingler said. “I know that we all feel very badly about it and that our hearts go out to the family and friends of this young man, and to him whose life is apparently over. We are very concerned and our sympathies are with them.”
Earlier, during public comment on the upcoming 2015 city budget, several citizens implored the City Council to reconsider its decision in the current budget to eliminate funding for the city’s Surf Rescue team, formerly made up of police officers and fire department personnel.
Ocean Shores resident Larry Schrupp said the ocean is an attraction that first draws tourists to the area.
“The beach is the reason that people come to this town,” Schrupp said. “We had a tragedy this weekend, and there is no way of knowing whether or not it would have been preventable if it hadn’t been for one of the decisions that was made about the 2014 budget, which was to cut the Surf Rescue team.”
“What we can know for sure is that more people are going to get pulled out into the tide by the riptides that are out here. It’s a very dangerous beach, and I think we owe it to people to send them home alive if we can when they are done with their visit to Ocean Shores.”
Ena Myers choked back tears when she described reading about Alimoren. “I know it’s hard to balance priorities when you have a very limited budget, but boy this is an important one,” she said, suggesting as a business owner she would help establish a trust to sustain funding of Surf Rescue.
City Councilman Gordon Broadbent was not on the council when last year’s budget cuts eliminated the 10-person Surf Rescue team, but said he would have voted to keep it. He suggested seeking a more county-wide solution or possibly state help. “We are a tourist town and sooner or later we are going to have to look at it again,” he said.
Daily World writer Erin Hart, and North Coast News Editor Angelo Bruscas contributed to this story.