WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)–Family members hugged each other and wiped away tears as a helicopter flew overhead, looking for their missing 16-year old son. There was an eerie, tense quiet on the beach as firefighters, Coast Guard, and divers combed the waters for d for 16-year old Alesandro Zitlalpopoca of Campbell Avenue in West Haven.
People watched, stunned at how fast he disappeared beneath the waters at Bradley Point Beach.
Zitlalpopoca swam out to a rock with his girlfriend, and witnesses said, on the way back, he started yelling for help. Two off-duty firefighters were on the beach when it happened, and they ran into the water to try to save him.
“They were hollering for him. He was there, struggling at that point, and it was close,” said one witness. “But then by the time they got there with the tides and all, they just couldn’t find him.”
Then beachgoers started searching, people on jetskis, everyone looking for any signs that the 16-year old was alive.
“One of the kid’s cousins came, and swam out to the rock where the girlfriend was sitting, and talked to her, and then he started swimming around trying to see if he could find him,” said witness Heather Smith.
After more than three hours of searching, divers surfaced and stopped swimming. They found Alessandro 30 yards off the beach in five feet of water. His mother collapsed on the shore and was treated by paramedics in the back of an ambulance.
“We have contact with the family, we’re taking care of their needs at this time. It’s obviously a time of great sorrow for them,” said Chief James O’Brian with the West Haven fire department.
O’Brian said that Zitlapopoca did know how to swim. They are now investigating how this happened.
“It’s horrifying how quickly things can change, and life can end so easily,” one witness said.