POINT MUGU, Calif. – Three members of the same family drowned on Thanksgiving after being swept out to sea while photographing the rugged coastline of Southern California, authorities said Friday.
Two other relatives who lived in the same house with the victims were also washed away by a wave but survived after pulling themselves to safety.
"To take out three members of the family — it's just horrible," Ventura County sheriff's Senior Deputy Julie Novak said.
The victims were identified as Pedro Avila Ramos, 21, and teenage brothers Catalino Ramos Vasquez, 19, and Marcelo Ramos Vasquez, 17, Deputy Medical Examiner Shasta Gainer said.
The three died while photographing the surf from a rocky outcropping at Point Mugu, a popular recreational spot for hikers and people who fish. There is no beach at the spot, and waves can swell over the rocks with little warning.
A wave estimated to be a little more than three 3 feet tall crashed onto the rocks and pulled the five men into the strong currents of the ocean, Novak said.
"These aren't big waves, but they are very strong and dangerously deceiving," she said.
One of the survivors was identified as Pedro Vasquez, 27. The name of the second person was withheld because he was 17. Their exact family relationship was not immediately available.
Vasquez and the teen began yelling for help after reaching the shore.
Kathryn Barrona, 24, who was sitting nearby, pulled one of the victims from the water, but he was already dead.
"It was really bad," Barrona told the Los Angeles Times. "I couldn't tell you how cold the water was. I didn't realize how bad the current was."
A sheriff's helicopter crew later retrieved the bodies of the other two men.
The surviving members of the family are poor and worry they do not have enough money to bury their loved ones, Novak said.
The rocks at Point Mugu have been the scene of other tragedies. A 16-year-old boy drowned there earlier this year while fishing.