OBX community comes together after child gets swept away in surf

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KITTY HAWK, N.C. (WAVY) — Residents in the Outer Banks came together Thursday for the family of a four-year-old boy who was swept away in the surf. 
 
The Coast Guard suspended its search for the child after five hours on Wednesday night; however, local authorities are leading what’s called a “recovery operation.”
 
Locals created a heart-shaped memorial of seashells on the beach Thursday with messages of hope for the family. One shell read, “Your OBX family is praying for you.”
 
Mary Dunstan, who started the memorial, says she felt compelled to offer support. 
 
“We’re all coming together and sending our love and surrounding this family in prayer,” said Dunstan.  
Jonathan Jernigan drove from Chesapeake to scan the ocean from above using his power paraglider
 
“It was on my mind when I went to bed. It was on my mind when I woke up, so I was like why not, Jernigan said. 
 
The Coast Guard says the boy was swept into the water by a “rogue” wave around 4 p.m. Wednesday near Lillian Street while walking along the beach with his mother. 
 
Police say the family is in the area vacationing from New Hampshire and the boy was the couple’s only child. 

Video (App Users): Coast Guard suspends search for 4-year-old

A MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew helicopter out of Elizabeth City and a response boat from the Oregon Inlet were dispatched to search for the boy. Corolla, Dare County, and Kill Devil Hills rescue squads are now working the case. 

A combined 130 square nautical miles were searched, according to the Coast Guard.

As crews continued to search, Kitty Hawk Police Chief Joel Johnson shared this message Wednesday night:

A tragic accident occurred today in Kitty Hawk. Under the watchful eye of the attending parents while walking along the shore, a four year old boy was swept from his mother into the ocean and carried away by the current. As parents, this is our worst nightmare, even for those of us who love and have grown up by the ocean. Please join us in thought and prayer for this family as we mourn with them the loss and give thanks for the well-being of our own children.

Captain Bion Stewart, commander of the Coast Guard’s North Carolina sector: 

“Suspending a search for anyone, let alone a young child, is the most difficult thing a commanding officer in the Coast Guard is called upon to do. I can’t imagine what the family of this little boy is going through right now.” 

This is a developing story, stay with WAVY.com for updates. 

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