A California high school football player set to play next year at the University of Wyoming is feared dead after he vanished into rough waves while boogie boarding with friends.
Naphtali Moi Moi, 18, was at Poplar State Beach in Half Moon Bay, California, Thursday when his friends say they saw his board shoot out of the water without him on it, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
The friends spotted the teen — who’d been pulled out by a rip current — minutes later, struggling to keep his head above water about 40 feet off the shore.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports they attempted to make a human chain to pull him back in but were unsuccessful due to the strong current and intense waves.
The sheriff’s office conducted an extensive search of the area with help from the United States Coast Guard and California Highway Patrol helicopters, Harbor Patrol and Cal Fire, but were unable to locate Moi Moi.
Authorities responded again Friday morning around 8 a.m. local time after someone reported seeing something in the water, but found nothing.
The sheriff’s office wrapped its search later that day.
“We have concluded the search on the waters in Half Moon Bay. We will continue to work with local authorities to be on the lookout & follow up on any information we receive,” it said in a statement. “Thank you to everyone who assisted with the search efforts.”
Moi Moi, an interior lineman, had signed a letter of intent to play football next year at the University of Wyoming, and according to the Chronicle, had received a full-ride scholarship.
“We have been talking with Naphtali’s family, and our hearts go out to the entire Moi Moi family at this extremely difficult time,” Craig Bohl, the school’s head football coach, said in a statement. “As a Cowboy Football family, we are all thinking of and praying for Naphtali, his family and his friends.”
The Hayward High School student, who went by “Neff,” was the youngest of four children, according to the Chronicle.
“Everybody is trying to stay strong, we just want him to come home with us,” his mother Lisa Moi Moi told CBS San Francisco. “We don’t want to drag this out too long. I just don’t want him to be out there alone.”
The outlet reports that the case is still being treated as a missing person, as no body has been recovered, but that the sheriff’s office does not currently plan to resume its search.
A GoFundMe page launched by Moi Moi’s family has so far raised more than $12,000.
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