HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KTVU) - A Spring break outing to the beach turns tragic as a Bay Area high school football star is presumed drowned at Half Moon Bay. The 18-year-old high school senior was on a boogie board when he was swept out to sea Thursday afternoon by a rip current. It was a fling for a group of friends getting ready to graduate.
Around 7 p.m., the search shifted from rescue efforts to a recovery after four hours of searching. The young man with his classmates from Hayward High School. They had not been to the beach before.
Family and friends of 18-year-old Naphtali Moimoi stood silent and stared at the ocean as night fell praying for a miracle.
“I feel so sorrowful for the family and all their hopes for him,” said Janet Sylvester of Hayward.
Sylvester’s grandson was Naphtali's best friend and teammate. Naphtali is described as a gifted football player. The defensive tackle had a full ride scholarship to the university of Wyoming. He and other students from Hayward High School took a trip to the coast to Poplar State Beach in Half Moon Bay as a last hurrah.
“They are graduating and they are going to be leaving each other,” said Sylvester. “They decided to have this last celebration together as a team.”
Naphtali was on a boogie board enjoying the water when friends saw him struggling. They tried to rescue him but couldn't reach him including Sylvester's grandson A.J.
“A.J. got sucked into the undertow as well, felt like he was drowning and he said he gave up when someone from the shore pulled him in,” said Sylvester.
Around 3 p.m. the search was on. The sheriff’s office said Naphtali was last seen only 15 yards from where the water breaks onto the shore. The intense fog hampering the search efforts.
“We’ve had helicopters in the air, boats in the water,” said Bat. Chief Brian Ham of the San Mateo County Fire Dept./ CalFire. “We've had rescue swimmers from state parks in the ocean. So far, because of the weather conditions and the thick fog they've had really poor visibility.”
Signs warn of the dangers of rip currents. The treacherous at times for surf and boogie boarding. Loved ones are now holding onto each other close as they wait and pray for closure.
Naphtali was known as the baby of the family. His family very proud of his accomplishments including his college football team signing. They are leaning on their faith at this time.
Tragic story out of #HalfMoonBay- as #Hayward High football star swept out to sea by rip current at Poplar State Beach. 18 y/o senior had full ride scholarship to University of Wyoming. Classmates tried to save him but couldn’t. #ktvu 10/11p pic.twitter.com/CV8J0EY9cr— Azenith Smith (@AzenithKTVU) April 19, 2019
After an extensive search we are switching from a rescue to a water recovery. Search efforts have concluded at this time due to the lack of visibility & high surf conditions, & the probability of detection. We are working with the family & will continue to be a resource for them.— San Mateo County S.O (@SMCSheriff) April 19, 2019