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Teen Who Drowned in Rockaways Had Never Been Swimming Alone

By  Tuan Nguyen and Wil Cruz | June 13, 2012 2:16pm 

Akeem Craig, 14, who drowned on a beach in Far Rockaway on June 12, 2012.
Akeem Craig, 14, who drowned on a beach in Far Rockaway on June 12, 2012.
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Courtesy of Fitz Ralph

QUEENS — The 14-year-old boy who drowned at a Far Rockaway beach had never ventured into the water alone because he didn't know how to swim, heartbroken relatives said Wednesday.

Akeem Craig, a high school sophomore who loved football and science and dreamed of being a doctor, went to the beach at Seagirt Boulevard and Beach 19th Street Tuesday and jumped in the water with one of his friends, another 14-year-old boy.

When the boys began to struggle in the water, a civilian sprang into action and was able to rescue the other teen.

But Akeem disappeared for 40 minutes before FDNY divers were able to pull him out, fire officials said. Paramedics rushed him to St. John's Hospital, where he died a short time later.

"He doesn't know how to swim," said Fitz Ralph, 42, Akeem's uncle, who added that the boy had never been in the water without relatives by his side.

"It's his first time," Ralph added, "and unfortunately his last."

Akeem's distraught mother, Raquel Williams, 38, was inconsolable Wednesday at the family's South Ozone Park home.

"She hasn't closed her eyes since getting the news," Ralph said.

Akeem's father, who lives in Maryland, has received the news and was headed to the city, relatives said.

Akeem, a sophomore at August Martin High School, left school Tuesday morning and made the nearly 8-mile trek to the beach with three friends, relatives said.

They went into the water shortly before 12:30 p.m. — hours before afternoon dismissal from the last day of school, officials said.

"He's supposed to go to school, not to the beach," Ralph said. "He signed in at the school and then he left."

When Akeem went under water, one of his friends tried to rescue him, his family said. He was unconscious and unresponsive when divers finally found him.

A "decent, normal teenager," Akeem had a girlfriend and was set to play for his school's football team as a wide receiver in the fall, his family members said.

"He's a quiet, pleasant kid," Ralph said.