OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJLA) - According to witnesses, the tragedy took place at about 4:30 p.m. on Monday. A group of new high school grads were playing soccer at surf’s edge, and a few teens decided to wade in. Three of them were knocked down by a wave, then disoriented and caught in a rip current.
"It was heart breaking, it was truly heartbreaking, it shows you how life changes in an instant," says witness Barbara Marshall.
By all accounts, the Ocean City Beach Patrol responded heroically as two of the teens were pulled to shore. But as panic-stricken vacationers looked on, there was no sign of the third.
"It was a long time before they found him," says Barbara.
It was too long for 18-year-old Don Pen Soh Boma, who earned his diploma last week from Paint Branch High School, where he was an honors student and soccer player. He was transported to a nearby hospital, and pronounced dead shortly after.
"People are kind of upset about it. It's kind of heartbreaking to hear," says Paint Branch student Steven Williams.
According to sources in Ocean City, the pair of teens who were rescued told the Beach Patrol that none of them could swim. On Tuesday night, the town will fill with high school grads celebrating Senior Week – and there is an important message for them:
"Anywhere you have an ocean, you have rip currents. Any time you're swimming in open water, take time to talk to lifeguards and then from what lifeguards tell you and knowing your own swimming ability, go from there," says Lt. Ward Kovacs with OCBP.