Swimmer Found Dead Off La Jolla Shores ID’d as Teacher William J. Cunningham Jr.

Lifeguard on JetSki at La Jolla Shores the morning body was discovered.
Lifeguard on JetSki at La Jolla Shores the morning swimmer’s body was discovered. Image via OnScene.TV

Authorities on Wednesday identified the swimmer found dead off La Jolla Shores Beach over the weekend as William Joseph Cunningham Jr. of San Diego.

He was a teacher at Fay Elementary School just west of Colina del Sol Park in that San Diego neighborhood, a school official said Thursday.

The San Diego Unified School District says Cunningham was hired in 2005 — first as a special education teacher at Madison High School (through 2021) and then at Scripps Ranch High School through this year, when he began splitting his time between Fay (universal transitional kindergarten through third grade) and Clay Elementary (UTK-kindergarten).

Cunningham, 65, was found unresponsive by two surfers in water 150 yards off the shore Saturday morning, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“Lifeguards responded to the location and extricated the decedent from the water prior to requesting paramedic assistance,” said a news release. “Responding paramedics contacted the decedent and confirmed death without medical intervention due to obvious postmortem changes.”

Cause of death was listed as blunt force injury complicated by drowning.

Next of kin have been notified, the release said. Online sources said he lived in University City.

An OnScene.TV report earlier said a surfer raised the alarm to lifeguards before 9 a.m. and rescuers used surfboards, a jet ski and a boat to reach the victim in an area with high surf conditions.

Witnesses interviewed by told OnScene.TV at the beach said chest compressions were performed on the victim on the beach after many lifeguards responded to the scene.

Witnesses that the man wore swim trunks and swimming goggles and appeared to have red marks to his legs and feet. Police confirmed that he had suffered injuries, possibly from being out in the elements.

Updated at 4:32 p.m. Oct. 26, 2023