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California firefighter dies at San Diego beach after disappearing during swim

Oakland Firefighter Caedan Laffan, 25, waded into the ocean after 1 a.m. on Thursday and never emerged alive – his body was recovered in the water nearby hours later.

The body of a 25-year-old California firefighter was recovered off a San Diego pier early Thursday morning after a beach trip with family and friends, police said.

The Oakland Fire Department confirmed via Facebook that Caedan Laffan died unexpectedly Thursday morning, and that “drowning appears to be the cause of death.”

Lt. Rick Romero with the San Diego Fire-Rescue said it was “possible” alcohol was involved, KUSI reported. His exact cause of death is undetermined pending an autopsy.


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Laffan’s friends and family alerted lifeguards after the 25-year-old walked into the ocean about chest to waist deep near Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, took a couple of strokes in the water, then disappeared from view

The San Diego Police Department responded to the scene at 1:56 a.m., and a search began in the coastal area near Grand Avenue. 

“We searched for a couple of hours with a rescue boat, land units, and a Coast Guard helicopter,” Romero told KTVU. “We weren’t able to locate him.” 

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Laffan’s body was recovered north of the pier around 4:15 a.m.

“Our lifeguard sergeant spotted him,” Romero said. “He had washed onto the beach on the north side of the pier. Unfortunately, incidents happen. And it’s just a sad story.”

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The Oakland firefighter was in town to compete in the California Firefighter Summer Games, his department said.

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Laffan’s body could be seen draped in a U.S. flag as police, fire personnel, friends and family carried him to the San Diego Medical Examiner’s van, according to KUSI. 

“Caeden Laffan was a young enthusiastic member of the Oakland Fire Department, with a bright future ahead of him, and we’re all heartbroken today after learning of this tragic event,” Oakland Fire Chief Damon Covington wrote in the department’s Facebook post. “Our hearts go out to the entire Laffan family, and all who know him, worked with him, and loved him.”

Firefighting was a legacy in Laffan’s family, according to KTVU. Laffan’s father was the Oakland Fire Department’s assistant fire chief before dying of a heart attack in the line of duty in 2020, his grandfather worked as a firefighter, his mother runs a business that offers mental health services to fire crews, and his younger brother Cooper is currently training in the fire academy.

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