4-year-old boy swept out to sea while walking with mom

A 4-year-old boy was swept out to sea when a ferocious wave crashed into him and his mom as they were walking along a North Carolina beach, officials said.

The desperate mother scoured the waters off Kitty Hawk Beach for her son, but when another wave swooped in, she “lost sight of him in the surf,” US Coast Guard officials said in a news release after the Wednesday afternoon incident.

The Coast Guard immediately deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat crew to search for the boy over 130 square nautical miles, but he was never found. The only sign of him was his hat, found two miles north of where he was swept away about an hour into the search, 13 News Now reported.

By 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Coast Guard announced it was suspending the search after repeated efforts turned up nothing. Names of the mom and boy have not yet been released.

“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,” Capt. Bion Stewart, a commander with the Coast Guard, said in a statement.

“I can’t imagine what the family of this little boy is going through right now.”

The family was on vacation at the beach town from Manchester, New Hampshire, and while the weather was warm and sunny, the surf was intense with waves as high as 6 feet, the Washington Post reported.

Jeremy Thomas, a chief petty officer with the Coast Guard in Wilmington, didn’t say how frequently people are swept up but said “the currents in North Carolina are bad,” according to the paper.

“It’s always a danger near the ocean,” Thomas said. “It’s just a tragic case. No one wants to see something like this happen.”

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