NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — A Sweetwater High School student who disappeared underwater after going cliff jumping with friends in Point Loma Wednesday has been pronounced dead after being pulled from the water by divers.
A family member identified the boy as Anthony Womack in a GoFundMe campaign.
The 15-year-old boy’s school announced the death to parents and students in a message sent to families Wednesday night. Principal Maribel Gavin said it was with “great sadness” that she must report the death of a 10th-grader on campus.
“Although the specific information regarding the cause of his death is still being investigated, it does appear to have been an accident that occurred off school grounds. We realize that this is a very difficult situation and want to ensure our families there is support available,” Gavin said.
“The safety and wellbeing of each of our students is important to us. We thank you for your continued support of Sweetwater High School, the Sweetwater Union High School District, and the entire National City Community.”
The school will have counselors and psychologists available on campus for anyone who needs to talk, and staff at the school can also help the community reach outside resources if it would be helpful, Gavin added.
An hour-long search in challenging conditions
The boy was pulled from the water around noon Wednesday after a tireless search by lifeguards in poor conditions.
The teen had been with a group of friends cutting class and jumping from the cliffs around 11 a.m., San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero said. He wasn’t a strong swimmer and started to struggle once he hit the water.
Rescuers swarmed the area after the boy’s friends called for help. Lifeguards searched from the bluff while swimmers searched the water’s surface and divers checked underwater. Terrible visibility underwater made the search very challenging.
“We just saturate the whole entire area until we find them,” Romero said of the massive effort. “You can’t see your hand in front of your face. … It is zero visibility. You have to run into the person to find them.”
After about an hour of searching, divers finally located the boy. He was lifted from the water and placed on a stretcher. He immediately received CPR and was placed in an ambulance, which rushed him to the hospital.
Romero did not have an official status for the boy at the time, but said, “he didn’t look very good.”
“We want to give him the best chance to survive we can,” he said. “(An hour) is a long time.”
“All we can do is pray,” said the boy’s friend, Jaydin Meza. Meza told FOX 5 the group of friends didn’t know the boy wasn’t a strong swimmer. As the teen started to struggle, friends said they tried to help him, but weren’t able to calm him down enough to keep him afloat and bring him to shore.
The lieutenant noted that signs forbid jumping from the cliffs in that area, though lifeguards make frequent rescues there. “It’s not the first time,” Romero said. “It does happen quite a bit.”
A GoFundMe campaign is raising money for the Womack’s family.