Man who drowned after jumping off pier identified

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OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Authorities Monday released the name of a former Marine who died after he jumped off the Oceanside Pier in front of his girlfriend and was swept out to sea.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office identified him as Oceanside resident Mariano Aguilar Soto, 27.

Soto’s body was retrieved Friday morning following an extensive three-hour search involving Oceanside police, firefighters, lifeguards and the U.S. Coast Guard, Oceanside police Lt. Adam Knowland said.

Soto’s girlfriend called 911 just after 3 a.m. Friday to report that Soto jumped off the pier and “immediately became distressed upon hitting the water” about 30 feet below, Knowland said.

Oceanside Fire Battalion Chief Pete Lawrence said Soto was “reportedly a good swimmer” and took off his clothes before leaping off the pier, telling his girlfriend he planned to swim to shore after the jump. But a strong current pulled him quickly toward open water.

Michael Cervantes, 18, of Menifee was on the pier and heard Soto yelling for help, Lawrence said. Seeing the victim struggling in the water and clinging to a pylon, Cervantes ran toward the beach, jumped into the water and swam to where he’d last seen Soto, but the older man had already been swept away.

Oceanside police sent officers to search from the pier above and a rescue vessel to search the water, while lifeguards went into the surf on paddle boards and WaveRunners and the Coast Guard sent a helicopter, Knowland said.

The rip current in the area was strong, pulling the paddle-boarding life guards quickly away from shore in a northwest direction. Just after 6 a.m., the rescue boat found Soto’s body floating in the water off the 700 block of The Strand.

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