CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII) — The U.S. Coast Guard announced late Saturday afternoon that it has suspended the search for a 16-year-old Mansfield student who had gone missing in the Gulf of Mexico.
The missing teen, Carlos Perez, is a ninth grader at Mansfield Lake Ridge High School, according to the Mansfield Independent School District. He was not wearing a shirt or a life jacket when he went missing just south of Bob Hall Pier on Padre Island.
A search, which employed a boat as well as a rescue helicopter, totaled over 10 hours and covered 128 square nautical miles, the Coast Guard said.
“We would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends as the decision to suspend a search is never an easy one,” a Coast Guard spokesperson told News 8. “It is done with care and deliberation. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and extensive search, our crews were unable to locate him.”
Witnesses reported seeing a group of teens going out in the water Friday morning. Two swimmers — both 16-year old boys — went into the water and were reportedly holding onto the end of the pier when the current picked up and took one of them out into the water.
A release from the Coast Guard stated that a group of five swimmers was in the water and four made it back to shore. One of the survivors was treated for minor scratches.
“Sector Corpus Christi issued an urgent marine information broadcast over VHF-FM channel 16, launched a MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Air Station Corpus Christi, and a 45-foot rescue boat from Station Port Aransas,” the release read.
The Coast Guard helicopter was in the air again on Saturday morning. Rangers from the Padre Island National Seashore were patrolling the coastline.
Erik Rios and Tomas Hoyos played on the JV soccer team last season with Perez. Today, they hit the field to try to get their minds off their missing friend.
“I just saw him at school on Tuesday,” said Rios. “He’s probably the most hardworking person on the team.”
Friends have shared his photo on social media and gathered at school yesterday to pray for him, even as many begin to accept the worst.
“I got home [yesterday] and I started crying. Because I started thinking about him and realizing what was happening, and I burst out into tears,” Rios said.
“I’m scared that I’m not going to see him again,” said Hoyos.
Officials said the missing teen was visiting from out of town with classmates for the SkillsUSA Texas Conference, which brought more than 9,000 Texas high school students to Corpus Christi. According to its website, the Mabank-based organization "facilitates Trade and Industry Education, enhances curriculum and involves all students."
Full statement from Mansfield ISD:
It is with deep sadness that we must share with you that a ninth grader at Lake Ridge High School was in Corpus Christi for the SkillsUSA state competition and went missing in the rough Gulf of Mexico waters south of Bob Hall Pier. Corpus Christi firefighters and the U.S. Coast Guard are currently searching for the student.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the student’s family as the rescue crews continue their search efforts. The Mansfield ISD community is doing everything we can at this time to provide comfort and assistance to the family and to our students.The other students at the SkillsUSA state competition will be returning back home as quickly as possible in order to reunite them with their families. We will continue to monitor and assess the situation.