STATEN ISLAND — The family of the Staten Island teenager who drowned in the waters near New Brighton on Tuesday, June 5, are struggling to understand why he was in the water the first place, family said.
Vaughan Mitchell, 15, was playing in the water near Jersey Street and Richmond Terrace with friends when he either slipped or was pulled into deeper waters by the current, sources and the Staten Island Advance said.
Mitchell allegedly ran through a hole in the fence near the water, ripped off his clothes and jumped in the water, the Daily News reported.
However, family members said police told them Mitchell jumped in the water for a swim, but they can't understand why because he never knew how to swim.
"He never took a swimming lesson in his life," said Keesha Tart, 41, Mitchell's mother. "I don't understand why the detectives told me he just went for a swim."
Family members said that he was afraid of the swimming, and never got close to water on visits to the beach.
"I took him to the beach and he never even got close to the water," said Doreen Tart, 41, Mitchell's aunt.
Emergency workers on the shore, aboard planes and in a police helicopter searched the waters for Mitchell for nearly an hour before he was found and pulled out. He was rushed to Richmond University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, fire officials said.
Keesha Tart said the last time she saw her son was when he stopped by the house after school to ask permission to hang out with his friends around 2 p.m.
Two of his friends returned to her door later with Mitchell's clothes and told her what happened.
"Two of my son's friends came to my house with his clothes," she said. "I see all the police and ambulance plus cop cars [at the scene.]"
When Tart got to the scene, she saw the police boats looking for her son, but wasn't able to see him until he was in the hospital.
The friends never told Tart exactly what had happened on Tuesday, Tart said.
Mitchell was one of 10 siblings and was an eight grade student at Morris Intermediate School. He was set to graduate soon and start high school next year, though he didn't pick the exact school yet.
Family remembered him as a bright, happy teenager, who loved basketball.
"He was a very bright kid," Doreen Tart said. "He loved basketball."
"He was everything to me," she said.