PERTH AMBOY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The family of a 17-year-old is grieving after he was pulled from the bay off the coast of New Jersey during a desperate search.
“We just got the news that they were looking for him, and they found him. We do believe has passed,” relative Patty Kertesz told CBS2.
The family of 17-year-old John Vasquez held onto hope as long as they could, but relatives say it was ultimately the boy’s uncle, a first responder on scene, who broke the news, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reports.
“And he said he didn’t make it,” Kertesz said.
“He was a special little boy,” another relative said.
“Adventurous, a really helpful person,” cousin Christian Torres said.
Torres said his cousin loved to swim.
As the Coast Guard, state police and the NYPD dive team rushed in, backpacks and bikes were still strewn across the sidewalk next to a ledge.
Witnesses say the teen had been sitting there with friends before he voluntarily jumped in the water around 2:30 p.m.
“They had a challenge, like, whoever gets to one of those buoys first and come back,” Perth Amboy resident Eddie Perez said.
CBS2’s Alice Gainer spoke with a woman who lives across the street. She described just how strong the currents are.
“Tides going in or coming out, then that’s when the currents are the strongest. So, we were swimming here when we were kids and if you got caught in one of those currents, it would just whip you right up the river before you even knew what happened,” she said.
Police Chief Larry Cattano says no swimming is allowed in Perth Amboy and conditions can be dangerous.
“It’s just not a safe area for swimming,” Cattano said. “From what I understand, he became quite desperate.”
John was pulled from the water just after 5 p.m. after a tense two-and-a-half hour search. First responders did CPR and rushed him to the hospital in cardiac arrest.
“This is really astonishing to me, you know. It’s just mindblowing. I don’t even have words to say. It’s just traumatizing, you know,” Torres said. “Me and him went swimming before, but I didn’t expect him to not know how to swim, you know? So it’s really kind of mindblowing because he knows how to swim, I’ve seen him swim.”
Authorities did not pronounce the victim dead at the scene. They said they were going to continue to do CPR all the way to the hospital, and as of Thursday night, police would not confirm the teen did in fact pass away.
John was with a friend in the water. CBS2 has been told that friend did make it back to shore.
Vasquez’s family set up a GoFundMe to help cover the funeral costs.