For the first time, we’re hearing from the family of Woodlain Zachee, the teenage swimmer who went missing at Mission Beach after, according to lifeguards, getting caught in a rip current.
“We feel a great pain, so we are asking for help from the community, from lifeguards to find him,” said Woodlain’s father Zachee Saint-Vil.
Saint-Vil said he’s leaning on his faith for strength as he aches for his son to be found.
Those searches continue once-a-day by air, while the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department patrols the shore, sand and water daily, according to a spokesperson.
The 18-year-old Crawford High School graduate was at Mission Beach last week with classmates for a graduation celebration when tragedy struck.
Two of Woodlain’s friends were rescued from the water, but lifeguards say Woodlain got caught in a rip current and and never resurfaced.
Attorney Evan Walker said the family is calling on the city to do a full investigation so this won’t happen to others.
“We’re also here to thank everyone that’s doing the search, but we ask that the search be continued because at the end of the day, the family wants to bring him home to have some type of closure,” Walker said.
There’s a growing memorial outside Tower 16 near where Woodlain went under.
Though the tower is staffed now, an SDFD spokesperson said it wasn’t at the time of the tragedy. Towers 15 and 17 were and lifeguards always have their eyes on the water, SDFD said.
But that’s little consolation for Woodlain’s heartbroken mother and twin brother who were back at the beach Wednesday, but too distraught to talk as they hope for closure.
One of the last times they were all together was captured in graduation pictures at Crawford High just days before his death
A standout basketball player, classmates say the 6-foot-2 senior was a big reason the team won the 2021 CIF Division 5 Championship.
Zachee’s dad said basketball was just one part of his son’s dreams since they emigrated from Venezuela several years ago.
“It was his dream and he wanted to keep playing nationally, so that he could bring success to his family,” Saint-Vil said.
Though there have been many questions about whether or not Zachee could swim, his father said he knew how to swim and would go to the beaches in Venezuela.