McLeish's friends saw he was in trouble, unable to swim and having a tough time breathing. They almost got him to safety, but were unable to reach him.
"He was saying 'Help, help, help,'" one of the friends said. "And I went into the water to see if I could reach that far...I couldn't reach that far."
Police rushed in with teams of divers, boats and a helicopter, but they could find no trace of the boy.
There were at least three drownings at the same beach last year. Police say the surf is tricky.
"You swim out to the sand bar. You're on the sandbar and then you go out a little bit further and you're gone," FDNY Deputy Chief Michael Halderman said.
Lifeguards are on duty at the park until 6 p.m. The 911 call for the missing swimmer came in at 7:12. Officials at the park say they've never had a drowning while lifeguards are on duty.