The body of a teenager found on Jacksonville Beach early Monday morning has been identified as that of a 14-year-old who went missing in the ocean Sunday afternoon, police said.
Someone walking on the beach about 6:20 a.m. near 17th Avenue North found the body, according to Jacksonville Beach police.
Javier Darbin Cano disappeared in the ocean about 2 p.m. Sunday. Police said it took extra time to notify his family because they only speak Spanish.
Ocean Rescue crews, joined by Jacksonville Fire Rescue, searched for the teen, who goes by Darbin, Sunday afternoon and evening. He was last seen struggling about 15 yards from shore in an area known for rip currents.
When lifeguards entered the water, they lost sight of him.
Colleen Jones, who has stepped in as a spokeswoman and translator for Darbin’s family, said the teen had lived in Florida for 10 months with his father, who said they came from Guatemala to escape poverty.
The family rarely came to the beach, Jones said, and the teen’s mother had warned the family about being in the water.
“His dad called his mom again and she said, ‘You know, the beach cannot be safe. I don’t know why, but you need to take my son and leave the beach. It’s not always safe. He could drown,'” Jones relayed. “And the next thing you know, he looked up and he saw his arm go down. He threw his phone and raced out to find his son.”
Jaheen Patterson was one of the many people who also ran out to try to help Darbin. He said Monday that he was overwhelmed with pain.
“I wish I could have done more. I couldn’t do anything. All I saw was his hand, and that was it — that was hard on me,” Patterson said. “That was the first time I ever witnessed something like that.”
An intense search and rescue operation by lifeguards, state and local police and the Coast Guard lasted nearly two hours. They searched on water and by air, but could not locate the teen.
Officials said Darbin went missing in an area that does not have a lifeguard stand.
“God bless them. I pray for them. I can’t imagine losing a child at that age,” Jacksonville Beach resident Janet Elias said.
Darbin’s family is working with Jones and a local priest to help plan funeral arrangements for him and have his body sent back to Guatemala.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for the funeral.
Rip current risks
Red flags were flying, notifying beachgoers of the rough surf, and lifeguards were warning people all weekend to stay out of the water due to dangerous conditions, which are expected to continue through Tuesday.
Even strong swimmers are encouraged to stay out of the water, lifeguards said.
Ocean Rescue conducted 10 water rescues at Jacksonville Beach Sunday. Authorities said that’s an unusually high number of rescues for an October afternoon, compared with a Saturday in July.
“It’s been a lot worse lately. I’m guessing since the hurricane, maybe,” Elias said.
If the water becomes too dangerous, lifeguards can ban beachgoers from going in the water.
Lifeguards said those who want to swim in the ocean should always do so near a lifeguard. They are only on duty until 6 p.m.