The Coast Guard has ended a search for Marine Reserve Cpl. Samuel Wanjiru, who went missing on March 27 while swimming off a beach in Puerto Rico. Local authorities say they are now conducting a “passive search” by monitoring Puerto Rico’s beaches in case Wanjiru’s body washes ashore, said Ricardo Castrodad, a spokesman for U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan.

Wanjiru disappeared off La Pared beach near Luquillo, a popular surfing spot on the island’s northeastern corner. His disappearance comes little more than two weeks after Puerto Rico Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Fidel Cruz-Llanos drowned while trying to save a swimmer who was caught in a rip current off Condado Beach in San Juan.

“We keep Cpl. Samuel Wanjiru and his family in our prayers, hoping they find strength and closure during this most difficult time,” Coast Guard Capt. Jose E. Diaz, commander of Sector San Juan, said in a statement. “The loss of life in Puerto Rico beaches during March has been quite surreal, including the loss of two servicemembers.”

The five-day active search for Wanjiru involved MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters from Air Station Borinquen; HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft; 33-foot Special Purpose Craft from Station San Juan; and Coast Guardsmen from Sector San Juan.

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“I commend the efforts of all responders, who have done their utmost to find Cpl. Wanjiru and who have also responded to numerous cases this month resulting in dozens of lives saved, while also conducting efforts to prevent any further loss of life in our beaches,” Diza said.

Coastal municipalities will take the lead in trying to locate Wanjiru as part of the passive search, said Nino Correa Filomeno, commissioner of Puerto Rico’s Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration.

“Thank you to all the staff who were working hard to find this young man,” Correa Filomeno said in a statement.

Task & Purpose was unable to reach a member of Wanjiru’s family on Monday.

Wanjiru joined the Marine Corps in March 2020, and he became a Motor Vehicle Operator assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, in Chicopee, Massachusetts, according to a statement from the wing.

Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, Wanjiru was visiting Puerto Rico with friends when he went missing, a 4th Marine Aircraft Wing statement says. He was not on duty or conducting military operations at the time.

The wing was notified on Monday that the Coast Guard had ended its search for Wanjiru, said Maj. Gen. John F. Kelliher III, commanding general of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. 

“We have spoken with the Wanjiru family, and we continue to ask for support during this difficult and challenging time,” Kelliher said in a statement. “We keep Cpl. Wanjiru and his family in our prayers as the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau shifts focus to passive search operations today.”

The Wing is grateful to the Coast Guard and local authorities who conducted the active search for Wanjiru, Kelliher said.

“We thank you for your tireless efforts, teamwork, and empathy towards our Marine and his family,” Kelliher said.

UPDATE: 04/01/2023; this story was updated with comments from Maj. Gen. John F. Kelliher III, Commanding General, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing.

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