STOKES COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — A Triad mom has been left with a gaping hole in her heart.

What started as an ordinary day on Belews Lake turned tragic after her 15-year-old son slipped under the water and drowned in a matter of seconds.

“He is in paradise, happy and just perfect, but I’m still selfish. I want my baby, and I miss his smile. His little jokes,” Ginger Bennett said.

She never thought that something like this could happen to her until she sat on the shore watching rescue crews and her husband searching Belews Lake for her little boy, Elijah Wyatt, the second of her five children.

A simple life jacket may have changed everything. She asked him multiple times on that day on the lake to wear one, and he took one into the water with him before he went under. “We called him in about 3 times to put on his life jacket, and the last time he came in and got it, so I trusted that he would put it on.”

Elijah was described as a kind, generous and beautiful soul. He loved the water and his mom said he was “treasure hunting” 30 feet from the shore on Belews Lake on June 2.

“He was very adventurous, from the time he was really little he was curious and adventurous, he was the one I had to watch all the time,” Bennett said. “He worried me so much all the time, but I love that he had that heart and that energy and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.” 

She watched him dive down, always resurfacing, until one time when only his hand popped out of the water. “The life jacket was still sitting right next to him, it was right next to him, and he knew how to float, he knew not to panic, he knew where his life jacket was. He was obviously in trouble.”

Bennett yelled to her son, saying she sensed his panic. His stepdad and a friend dove in to find him.

She believes that deep water and exhaustion were too much for Elijah. “It was boom straight to the bottom, 17 something feet deep and you couldn’t see.”

First responders searched the lake with dive teams and high-tech sonar equipment. After hours of searching, crews found Elijah’s body deep in the lake.

“If he would have made the choice to wear his life jacket, I feel like he would be here,” she said.

She’s a mother helpless and hurting, feeling numb as she plans her son’s funeral. “I really feel once there’s no mommying left to be done, there’s no more planning…when he’s in the ground, that’s going to be my breaking point, there’s not going to be anything left for me to do for him.”

Ginger says her son was a strong swimmer with dreams of being a Navy SEAL.

His viewing is Tuesday at Hayworth Miller Funeral Home in Winston-Salem at 6 p.m. and his funeral is Wednesday at 2 p.m.