The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended a search for a 4-year-old boy who was carried into the ocean after encountering an intense wave along a beach in North Carolina, WVEC-TV reports.
The boy and his mother were walking along Kitty Hawk Beach when the incident occurred Wednesday afternoon.
The mom looked for the child along the shoreline but lost sight of him after another wave rolled in, according to authorities.
Coast Guard crews promptly began a search for the boy using a helicopter and boat and scoured more than 130 nautical miles, but he has not yet been found.
The only item that has been located is his hat, which was discovered two miles from where he went into the ocean, the television station says.
The Coast Guard suspended the search around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday because it had not located the child.
“Suspending a search for anyone, let alone a young child, is the most difficult thing a commanding officer in the Coast Guard is called upon to do,” Coast Guard Capt. Bion Stewart said in a written statement.
“I can’t imagine what the family of this little boy is going through right now.”
— Robert Boyd 13News Now (@13robertboyd) April 25, 2018
The family was vacationing in North Carolina as waves along the coast were surging as high as 6 feet, according to the Washington Post.
Such currents can be hazardous, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas said.
“It’s always a danger near the ocean,” Thomas told the newspaper. “It’s just a tragic case. No one wants to see something like this happen.”
The names of the mother and boy, who are from New Hampshire, have not yet been released. The boy was the family’s only child.
By Thursday, residents of the community made a memorial of shells arranged in the shape of a heart on the beach, the Outer Banks Voice reports.
“I just wanted to reach out in some way to the parents,” local Mary St. Claire Dunstan told the newspaper. “My heart is breaking for them.”
[Feature image: YouTube screenshot]