SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The Coast Guard suspended its search for missing 16-year-old Omar Gonzalez at 5:00 PM Tuesday. Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard say there's a "slim likelihood of survivability". For the teen's family, they are still clinging to hope that Omar will be found alive. The stepfather of the Petal teen shared the family's agonizing ordeal with WLOX News.
Jim Abney broke down in tears as he talked about his stepson. He shared a photo with WLOX, showing Omar on Ship Island, right before he went missing Sunday afternoon. The picture was taken from Omar's cell phone, which he left on the island to go swimming.
Jim Abney said Omar is not a strong swimmer and doesn't like to swim at all.
Omar just finished his sophomore year at Petal High School. He described the teen as a momma's boy who is always happy. Abney said Omar was a member of the Robotics Club and made straight A's.
He said Omar was supposed to spend the night at a friend's house and the Abney family didn't know that Omar was going on the trip to Ship Island. Abney said he would not have allowed Omar to go due to the bad storms.
When we asked Abney how the family is coping, he said Omar's mom "Tamara is tougher than your average mother. She is very strong, but no amount of toughness can prepare you for this."
"I try to keep myself together for Tamara's sake. I have to take some of those moments alone to deal with this. It's been hard. We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. We just want to bring Omar home."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. I've just spoken with them and covered with them all the assets, the hours and the assets, both our state and federal assets that are out there, our boats and planes that have been searching for their son. It's always hard because our main goal in the Coast Guard is to bring people home and bring closure. We've suspended the active search, but the passive search will go on. So there's always hope. We'll always have our ears out hoping. And if we do find him, we'll bring him home," said Capt. Joe Snowden, U.S. Coast Guard Mobile.
"Like any family, without any form of closure, they're holding up great and they're an absolutely phenomenal family," said Rebecca Polzin, U.S. Coast Guard Officer in Charge.
Although the Coast Guard has suspended its search for Omar, the state Department of Marine Resources and other local agencies will continue their search efforts, as long as the weather permits.