Akeem Craig, the 14-year-old boy who drowned at Far Rockaway Tuesday, did not know how to swim, according to his friends and family.
It was the last day of school at August Martin High in Jamaica, and Craig joined some classmates for a trip to a nearby beach, at Seagirt Boulevard and Beach 19th Street.
“I told him he was cutting school for no reason — it’s raining,” said 15-year-old friend Nicholas Thompson. “I know he felt pressured by girls. Girls got boys’ heads.”
When they got to the beach, a fisherman warned them that swimming wasn't a good idea. The rip tide was especially strong that day, due to winds and rain. “I told them that something was going to happen,” he told My Fox New York. But the teens didn't listen, he said, and "tragedy happened."
Akeem was just wading in the water, when he "fell at a dropoff and went under." His best friend, Akeem Brown, who also can't swim, tried desperately to save his buddy, but to no avail. From The New York Post:
“I went out to get him and he was pulling me under the water,” the friend, 15-year-old Akeem Brown, told The Post.
“He was holding my neck and he said, ‘Don’t let me go, don’t let me go.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to let you go.’
“He was crying, then he started vomiting. He let go and I came up to get air.” Seconds later, Craig was out of Brown’s sight.
There were no lifeguards stationed at the beach and signs warned against swimming. Having to scan such a large area, it took 45 minutes for NYPD and FDNY divers to locate Craig. When retrieved, he was already in cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at St. John's Episcopal Hospital.
It was the first, and hopefully last, drowning at a New York City beach this season.
“This incident is a reminder of the absolute necessity that New Yorkers should never enter the water where there is no lifeguard present,” parks commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a statement. “Going into ocean waters or any water body not supervised by a lifeguard can have tragic consequences.”
Meanwhile, Akeem Craig's mother is inconsolable, telling The Post, "He had so much potential, he could have done anything he wanted."
“I don’t want to accept this. I can’t describe the feeling. My heart is broken."