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Family of missing teen swimmer speaks out

Woodlain Zachee
Posted at 6:21 AM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 15:17:12-04

SAN DIEGO, (KGTV) — For the first time, family members of a recent high school graduate who was swept out to sea are speaking out about the tragedy, and the next steps that they're taking as they come to terms with what happened.

On June 14, authorities said Woodlain Zachee and two others got into trouble in the water off Mission Beach when they encountered a rip current. The others were rescued, but Woodlain was pulled under.

The search for the missing 18-year-old started as a rescue, but it then turned into a recovery mission.

Woodlain has not yet been found, and his father, Zachee Saint-Vil, says he can't stand the pain he and his family are feeling, as they hope for any news on their son.

Just a day before he went missing, Woodlain graduated from Crawford High School, alongside his twin brother Woodly.

Zachee says Woodlain had dreams of attending and graduating college and hoped to be a basketball star, promising to support his family. He says his son was kind, respectful and grateful for his parent's sacrifices.

Last week, San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Chief James Gartland said the teen was a non-swimmer, but according to Woodlain's father, he did know how to swim, although he says not at a professional level. Now, they're pleading for the beach community's help to find their son.

The family has hired attorney Evan Walker, in hopes of getting more answers from the City of San Diego. They're asking the city for a full investigation about what happened the day Woodlain was swept away.

"We are trying to get a full and complete story of what exactly happened that day," says Walker.

Until then, Woodlain's dad still holds on to hope that his son will be found alive.

A spokesperson for SDFD lifeguards told ABC 10News that they share in the family's grief and say that on-duty staff is patrolling the shore, sand, and water and using a helicopter to search once a day for Woodlain.