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Father Drowns, Children Swept Out To Sea On Sonoma County Coast

JENNER, Sonoma County (CBS SF) -- A father was dead and his two young children missing after they were swept into the turbulent waters of the Pacific Ocean Sunday afternoon off Blind Beach near Jenner in Sonoma County.

Sonoma County Sheriff Lt. Michael Raasch said his agency received a distress call at around 2:30 p.m. reporting that three people were in the water and caught in a riptide.

"What we learned was that two children were playing close to the water at Blind Beach and they were swept out to sea," Raasch said. "The father who was nearby jumped into the water to try to save the two kids."

The father was able to reach one of the children in the violent rip current.

"They were both his kids -- a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old -- apparently he grabbed onto the 4-year-old and was trying to pull him in and apparently got swept out further," Raasch said. "The two kids got swept out to sea and the father ended up drowning."

Sheriff deputies and helicopter, a Coast Guard crew, California Highway Patrol officers and lifeguards all joined in the search for the two children.

"We are searching for the kids, found a pair of shoes washed up, a jacket, but no sign of the kids," Raasch said. "We looked for hours and that's where we stand right now."

A high surf advisory was in place along the coast until Tuesday afternoon. Forecasters warned of dangerous sneaker waves and strong rip currents with swell heights up to 24 feet.

"Very rough seas, very active right now," Raasch said of the conditions. "The waves are very treacherous, even very strong swimmers would have trouble getting out of the water."

Raasch said the family had recently moved to Sonoma County from out of state. He said crews were going to maintain a vigil at the beach overnight in the hopes of recovering the two children's bodies.

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