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Family, friends call for search to resume for missing students

Shireen Ahsan, 19, of Palo Alto, and Solaiman Nourzaie, 25, of San Jose, were swept into ocean Monday

A search has been called off for two college students from the Bay Area who were swept into the ocean Monday at Bonny Doon Beach in Santa Cruz County, but their families and friends are hoping the operation will resume with hopes that the pair will be found.

Shireen Agha Ahsan, 19, of Palo Alto, and Solaiman Nourzaie, 25, of San Jose, are sophomores at University of California at Santa Cruz and were at the beach with a group of classmates Monday afternoon, Cal Fire and university officials said.

The search was canceled Tuesday evening and can resume if the Coast Guard receives credible information on the whereabouts of the missing students.

While family and friends are disappointed that the search was suspended, they plan to walk along the shore during low tide to look for any signs of the pair, Shireen Ahsan's cousin Kazim Ahsan said.

The family has sent the Coast Guard a detailed description of the clothing the students wore that can help if the search resumes, Kazim said.

Kazim was appreciative of the Coast Guard's thorough search, but doesn't believe it's time to call it off.

Today's better weather conditions can allow for a helicopter to fly out over the water, Kazim said.

Shireen Ahsan enjoyed going to the beach, especially when she started attending UCSC, Kazim said.

Shireen Ahsan and Nourzaie are both part of the college's Muslim Students' Association who were going back to the campus after a conference and stopped at the beach, according to Kazim.

University officials said Shireen Ahsan didn't declare a major, but Kazim said she was pursuing computer science.

Nourzaie was majoring in Earth and Planetary Sciences, according to the university.

Shireen Ahsan is the youngest of four siblings and graduated in 2014 from Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, according to her cousin Jafer Baig.

The families of the missing students are "extremely worried" for them, Baig said. "We have more or less accepted that we will probably be seeing a body instead of a life."

A vigil for the pair has been scheduled for 2 p.m. today at the beach's parking lot on Coast Road off of state Highway 1, Kazim said.

About 500 to 1,000 people are expected to attend, where they will say prayers and call for the search to continue, Baig said.

"Ms. Ahsan and Mr. Nourzaie were early in their college and professional careers with promising futures ahead. It is heartbreaking to think they may no longer be with us," UCSC chancellor George Blumenthal said today in a letter to the campus community.

Shireen Ahsan and Nourzaie had climbed to a rock outcropping, where a large wave knocked them into the water, Cal Fire officials said.

A third classmate was also forced into the water and suffered minor injuries, but safely swam back to the beach on their own, according to Cal Fire.

Firefighters responded to a report of a cliff rescue at the beach around 5 p.m. Monday and were able to help the other students.

There was significant surf on Monday evening, when waves measured about 10 to 15 feet, according to fire officials.

The U.S. Coast Guard conducted a 22-hour search for the two students that spanned 46 square miles, Coast Guard officials said.

Images captured through infrared technology prompted a helicopter crew to search at a cave near the water, but they were unable to find anyone when they repelled down, according to the Coast Guard.

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