A 4-year-old boy walking on the beach with his mother on the Outer Banks was hit by a wave and swept out to sea on Wednesday, officials say.
The child still had not been found as of Friday afternoon.
The boy and his mother were walking on the beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, late Wednesday afternoon when a wave hit the child, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement. His mother "lost sight of him in the surf."
The Coast Guard responded about 4 p.m. and searched for the boy by helicopter and by boat. They searched 130 square nautical miles for hours but still couldn't find him. At 8:30 p.m., they suspended their search.
Locals went to the beach to see if they could help, WAVY-TV reported.
A man who lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, about 70 miles north, took his powered paraglider down to the beach to search for the boy.
"It was on my mind when I went to bed, and it was on my mind when I woke up, so I was like, why not?" Jonathan Jernigan told WAVY.
Neighbors laid out seashells in the shape of a heart on the beach and said they were sending their love to the family.
"I don't think there's anybody here that's not praying for them," Lily Davis told WAVY.
Monica Wilkerson said she spoke to the ocean.
"I was out there saying, 'Just give him back.' Even if it's just to say goodbye," she said through tears.
The Kitty Hawk Police Department, which assisted in the search, sent their condolences to the family.
"As parents, this is our worst nightmare, even for those of us who love and have grown up by the ocean," the department said on Facebook. "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."
Neither the Coast Guard nor the police department gave the child's name.
A family member of the missing boy declined an interview request by WAVY but said they were hoping for closure soon. They were visiting the Outer Banks from New Hampshire. The boy is their only child.