Cal Fire

Search for Teen Missing in Poplar Beach Waters Concluded

Search efforts briefly resumed Friday morning after Naphtali Moimoi went missing in the waters off Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay on Thursday.

Dense fog continued to be an issue in the search from the air and in the ocean for the missing 18-year-old Hayward High School student who had been boogie-boarding offshore when he became distressed, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said.

Lisa Moimoi said she spotted her son not too far off in the water Friday morning but the sheriff's office concluded the search for Moimoi not long after it resumed.

Two friends went into the water and attempted to help the teen but they needed help themselves getting back to shore, officials said Thursday.

Authorities fear the teen drowned, and many rescue workers were preparing to leave the scene Thursday evening. A Coast Guard unit was expected to continue searching the waters until midnight, officials said.

Janet Sylvester’s grandson A.J. was one of the other teens in the water boogie boarding with friends when a rip current pulled them into the ocean.

"As soon as it hit, you had maybe a second or two to breathe, and it would come rolling in again," Sylvester said. "There just wasn’t time to get a breath."

She said her grandson tried to swim into the current to help but wasn’t able to get to his friend.

Rescue crews launched two boats and two helicopters with infrared cameras aboard to pick up the 18-year-old’s body heat. But the helicopters had to be turned away.

"Because of the dense fog, they can’t penetrate ... through the fog to see direct down to the water," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Brian Ham said.

Most of the teens at the beach were fellow athletes at Hayward High School on spring break.

Dozens gathered a the high school Friday night for an emotional vigil, a time for his church friends and teammates to mourn the football star.

"He was loyal, persevered despite all the circumstances in front of him," said football coach Justin Redemer. "He was a great football player great teammate great friend."

At the same time, the boy's parents held a vigil at the popular beach.

"I just want him to come back," his mother Lisa said.

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