PACIFICA, Calif. (KTVU) - A young man, presumed drowned in Pacifica, is described by his parents as "everything you could want in a son."
28 year old Tyler Collins disappeared in the rip currents of Rockaway Beach early Tuesday morning, leaving his loved ones in grief and disbelief.
"It's always been my worst fear, something like this," Dean Collins told KTVU, after driving more than two hours from his home in Merced County to San Mateo County.
"I always thought he's going to get hurt snowboarding or something," said Collins, describing Tyler as an adventurous, athletic and outdoorsy.
"Everything he did, he always went at it hard and fast," added his father, "and he always gave it his all."
As the U.S. Coast Guard scoured the waves by helicopter and boat, Collins and other family and friends kept watch, hoping for a miracle.
"Hoping for the best but it doesn't look good," said Collins somberly, "yeah, this is a parent's nightmare."
Tyler grew up in Dos Palos, a city of about 5,000 southwest of Merced. Since graduating from U.C. Santa Barbara, majoring in Archaeology, he has lived in North Lake Tahoe, working as a cook in restaurants and ski resorts.
His mom, Jeannie Collins, says he wanted to take a break from the Sierra snow on his days off, Monday and Tuesday, so took a quick trip to the coast with a few friends.
Monday evening, they went out bowling, enjoyed dinner and drinks, then returned to their hotel, fronting the beach. About 4 a.m. they decided to take a swim.
"For some reason, he went in the ocean early this morning," said Dean Collins, "and he wasn't thinking. He was very smart, but sometimes people don't think."
A friend who went into the water with Tyler told police they were in chest-deep water when the rip current grew stronger and he made his way back to shore. Tyler did not return.
By 5 a.m. the search was launched by Pacifica Police and the Coast Guard, on foot and by boat. In the darkness, Tyler's companions remained on the beach, silent and staring at the ocean.As the day went on, more friends and relatives arrived.
"My heart has been pounding all day long, it's just so sad," said Pacifica resident Carmen Soulette, watching the search shift from a rescue to recovery.
"I have a 28-year-old so it touches home," said Soullete," and for his family's sake, I just hope they find him soon and bring him home."
Another resident pulled up in his truck, and upon realizing that Tyler's mom was steps away, jumped out to wrap her in a hug.
"My heart aches for you, I'm sorry, I don't know you, but my heart aches," said Mike Barnett, emotionally. Barnett had heard the early morning helicopter fly over his house.
"Northern California is a treacherous ocean, and to be swimming at night," Barnett shook his head, "plus the water is cold."
Rockaway Beach is small, but the cross-currents are strong, and footing drops suddenly. A sign at the north end, where Tyler entered, warns of the danger of rip tides. Tyler's parents don't know if he saw it.
"There should be a lot more warning," suggested Dean Collins," I mean, would it hurt to have a couple lights on the signs, just to make it more obvious?"
Tyler's parents also believe warnings should be given when guests check-in to local hotels.
"Local kids would know because this is talked about ," said Collins, "But Tyler was totally out of his element, he had no idea, he hadn't been here before."
Tyler played multiple sports and swam competitively growing up. He also surfed while at college in Santa Barbara, so he was a strong swimmer and comfortable in the ocean. His loved ones don't want any other family to suffer the way they are: occupying the same hotel, gazing out at the same waters, where their beloved son was last seen.
"I'm supposed to go first," said Dean Collins, his voice breaking. "It's just a nightmare."
As darkness fell Tuesday, the Coast Guard said the search for Tyler Collins would be suspended pending any new developments.