A teenager who was pulled from the ocean along Sunset Cliffs after he was underwater for nearly an hour has died, Sweetwater High School confirmed Wednesday night.
The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department was called after 10 a.m. Wednesday, when a teenager who jumped into the water was seen struggling, the department's spokesperson said.
Family members, friends and classmates gathered at Sunset Cliffs on Friday, Sept. 13 to remember Anthony Womack, 15, and give him a heartfelt goodbye.
Witnesses say the 15-year-old jumped into the water from a 20-foot cliff.
Womack was pulled from the water after lifeguards searched on a boat and watercrafts for almost an hour near Pappy's Point, an area of the cliffs between Adair and Osprey streets.
Lifeguards were seen forming a line in the water and combing the cove floor in search of the swimmer.
"For us, the visibility was very poor, like six inches," San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropky said. "Like chocolate milk, and there is a lot of debris in the water."
Stropky said an off-duty lifeguard helping with the search found Womack. When he was pulled to the surface approximately 47 minutes later, he wasn't breathing and had no pulse, Stropky said.
Womack was transported to UC San Diego Medical Center, according to the fire department spokesperson.
Sweetwater High School sent a letter to the school community Wednesday confirming the teen had died.
"It is with great sadness that we report to you the death of Anthony Womack, a 10th grade student at Sweetwater High School," the letter said.
The school said the incident is still being investigated but, at this point, it appears to be an accident.
NBC 7 spoke with friends of the victim who said they were going to join other teenagers at Sunset Cliffs after ditching school.
"They didn't find him until an hour later and he was unconscious already in the water," friend of the victim, Jomary Jordan said.
#Happeningnow well wishes and flowers left at Sunset Cliffs where a teenager jumped from the rocks and into the water. He wasn’t found for nearly an hour.— Dave Summers (@DaveSummersNBC7) September 12, 2019
What’s being done about it #NBC7 at 11 pic.twitter.com/4hzRL9NG0j
"We didn't want to believe it, we thought they were just joking around," said Gami Santos, friend of the victim.
Garney Crews, Womack's uncle said he doesn't blame the kids, and called the death of his nephew a tragic accident.
"Please don't take blame for what's happened. It's been a tragic accident. When he was there and jumped with you guys, he did that at his own free will," Crews said.
Stropky said kids are often pushed by peer pressure to make the leap at the popular cliff-jumping spot.
There is an ordinance in San Diego that prohibits jumping off rocks more than 5 feet above the water. There is a sign posted informing visitors of the rule and there is also an emergency call box next to the parking lot nearby.
Last year, 13 related citations were issued in the Ocean Beach and Sunset Cliffs areas.
Stropky said extra staff was hired to patrol the cliff area during the summer but that ended on Labor Day. Had the extra staff still been there, Stropky said, Wednesday's accident may have been prevented or at least responded to faster.
The teen's uncle has created an online fundraising page to support the family with funeral costs. The family is planning a vigil to honor Womack on Friday evening, Crews said.
Womack is survived by two older sisters.
Meanwhile, Sweetwater High School said psychologists, counselors and other resources will be available to students on campus as they cope with the death of their classmate.