Teen drowns in Long Beach

June 27, 2008 8:45:10 PM PDT
A 14-year-old who recently graduated from middle school drowned Friday."I just feel so many different things," the victim's mom, Lakesha Thomas, said.

Thomas is searching for answers at the Long Beach bayfront, just hours after her son, Leo Vann, drowned in the Reynolds Channel.

"My son is an excellent swimmer," she said. "He's been swimming since he was 2 years old. So I really don't know what happened."

Vann had just graduated from Long Beach Middle School. Early Friday afternoon, he and a few friends were at a local skateboard park when they jumped a boardwalk fence, walked down a narrow pier and jumped in the water to cool off.

That's when eyewitnesses say Leo began struggling to stay afloat.

"He jumped in, he was swimming OK, then he just went under," witness Dylan Debrosse said. "My friend tried to save him and couldn't."

That boy told friends he did everything he could to save Leo.

"He said his hand got too weak, so he had to let him go," Vann's cousin, Denajah Merchant, said. "And Leo continued to tug on his leg, but Leo couldn't get up. And the other boy just had to let him go, or else he would have also drowned.

Several different law enforcement agencies were involved in the search, including the Nassau Marine Bureau and Aviation unit. The child was found by the Freeport Fire Department dive team 45 minutes after he went under.

Authorities say CPR was initiated and the youth was transported to Long Beach Medical Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:30 p.m.

Soon after, hundreds of friends gathered at the scene to console each other and to remember the honor roll student who was friends with everyone.

"He was a selfless person," Thomas said. "He was a warm-hearted, good kid."


STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Jen Maxfield