Eight-year-old Hezekiah Hill went to Florida’s New Smyrna Beach with his family, including his 11-year-old sister and his mother, Bonita Hill.
According to WFTV, Hezekiah and his older sister were swimming in the ocean when they were caught in a rip current. As the current pulled them into deep water, Hezekiah’s sister attempted to grab and help her little brother but ended up needing to be saved herself.
While setting up for their day on the beach, Bonita took a selfie with her son. It wasn’t long after taking the photo that Hezekiah disappeared beneath the water.
As WFTV reports, red and purple flags — flags that indicate strong currents and dangerous marine life, respectively — were raised throughout the weekend to alert beachgoers of the risks. During that time, swimmers were asked to stay in front of the lifeguards while swimming. Lifeguards also encouraged adults to accompany their children in the water.
WFTV digital meteorologist Irene Sans shared a photo that explains what swimmers should do if they find themselves stuck in the ocean’s current:
If a person is caught in a rip current, here are some of the steps he or she should take:
- Don’t try to fight the current.
- Swim out of the current, then toward the shore.
- If you can’t swim out of the current, do your best to float or tread water.
- Call or wave for assistance.
It is important for people who enter the ocean to know how to swim and that they never swim alone.
Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue officials said that the same day Hezekiah went missing, 11 others had to be rescued from the ocean.
Two days after Hezekiah’s initial disappearance, Air One, the United States Coast Guard, and other beach officials were still searching for the 8-year-old.
Bonita told WFTV that she never could have imagined this happening to her little boy:
“I never, never would think that this can happen. … I can’t leave. I can’t. I just can’t.”
“I’m just trying to keep faith and keep hope and pray that God brings me a miracle.”
Bonita tearfully thanked everyone who is helping them look for her son. She said to search for her son as if they were looking for their own.
Sadly, there have been no signs of the boy found so far.