A 4-year-old boy was walking with his mother in shallow waters on a beach in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Wednesday afternoon when a wave came crashing onto shore with ferocity.
The current knocked the family off their feet, ripping the young boy away from his mother and carrying him out to sea. Scouring the water for her son as another wave rushed in, the mother “lost sight of him in the surf,” U.S. Coast Guard officials said. He was gone.
At about 4 p.m., Coast Guard, police and fire authorities launched a search for the missing boy, who had reportedly been visiting with his family on vacation from their home in Manchester, N.H., police officials told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
It was a warm and sunny spring afternoon on the Outer Banks, but the surf was intense, with waves 4 to 6 feet high. The mother and son were walking alone when they were knocked down.
The rescue crews searched a total of 130 square nautical miles, deploying a Jayhawk helicopter and 47-foot motor lifeboat to scan the waters for the boy, according to a Coast Guard news release. But the only sign of the child was his hat, found about two miles north of where he was swept away, about an hour after he vanished, according to 13 News Now.
By 8:30 p.m., the Coast Guard had suspended its search.
“Suspending a search for anyone, let alone a young child, is the most difficult thing a commanding officer in the Coast Guard is called upon to do,” Capt. Bion Stewart, a commander of the North Carolina sector said in a statement. “I can’t imagine what the family of this little boy is going through right now.”
“A tragic accident occurred today in Kitty Hawk,” Chief Joel C. Johnson, of the Kitty Hawk Police Department, wrote in a Facebook post, explaining that the boy was swept away to sea under “the watchful eye of the attending parents while walking along the shore.”
“As parents, this is our worst nightmare, even for those of us who love and have grown up by the ocean,” Johnson added. “Please join us in thought and prayer for this family as we mourn with them the loss and give thanks for the well-being of our own children.”
The news of the boy’s disappearance stunned residents and officials in this Outer Banks community, prompting locals to gather at the beach to join the search. One man hovered over the waters in his powered paraglider for two hours in the hope of finding the boy.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Samantha Schmidt