Search resumes near Ship Island for missing teen

Search resumes near Ship Island for missing teen

GULFPORT, MS - The DMR's Marine Patrol officers have resumed their search near Ship Island for a Petal teen who disappeared Sunday afternoon. For a brief period of time, the DMR suspended its search, waiting for severe weather to pass the area.

The DMR patrol boats join Coast Guard vessels, which have been near Ship Island for almost 24 hours.

The missing teen is 16-year-old Omar Gonzalez. The Petal teen and his 17-year-old friend disappeared in the waters near Ship Island.

The two teens took a Ship Island Excursions ferry boat to the island for an afternoon of fun. Family members say the teens had been seen swimming in the waters off the west tip of Ship Island when something went wrong.

The Gonzalez family has been at Coast Guard Station Gulfport since learning Omar wasn't on the ferry boat that returned to the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. "When they realized that the boys were missing, that's when the call was made," said U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Rebecca Polzin.

According to Polzin, the teens were likely carried out by a rip current. "Eventually, once the rip current gets away from shore, you end up in the standard current, and the current actually pushed them up into the Gulfport ship channel," said Polzin.

That's where the DMR found Gonzalez's friend, delirious, and clinging to a navigation buoy.

As for Gonzalez, the search continued into Monday, only stopping when a line of storm made it unsafe for Marine Patrol officers to remain on the water.

Marine Patrol Chief Keith Davis knows that every passing moment is paramount in cases like this. "So, it's important to be out there as much as we can checking all of the areas that we think the child may have gone to," said Davis.

The Coast Guard, Harrison County Sheriff's Department, Customs, and Border Patrol all jumped into the search.

Davis said the entire area was canvassed with search vessels both on the water and the air. "It's just critical to us right now to try to get out there as much as we can fighting the weather conditions that are out there to bring this child in," he said.

The unidentified 17-year-old was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. We will continue to update this story as it develops on air and online.

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