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Tybee Island Police Department finds body of missing swimmer

Published: Apr. 26, 2019 at 11:19 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - UPDATE: Tybee Island Ocean Rescue has located the body of a swimmer who went missing on Easter Sunday.

Officials recovered the body of Je’Aarian Scott Belin around 6 p.m. Belin went missing in the water just off the southern end of Tybee Island.

Tybee Fire, Tybee Police, Chatham County, DNR, and the Tybee Marine Rescue Squadron all assisted in the recovery effort.

“The loss of a child is your biggest fear as a parent, so I can’t even imagine what these parents are even going through right now,” said Tybee Island Mayor, Jason Buelterman.

“What we’ve done since Easter Sunday is make sure that we have people out there at all daylight hours around those tide shifts.”

Other precautions the city is considering are more signage and possibly cameras.

“We are trying to develop more creative ways to keep people off of that sandbar. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people in the community. They are obviously very sad about what happened."

Tybee Island Police posted the following to Facebook around 7:15, Friday night.

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Sunday night, a swimmer on Tybee Island went missing. Crews have searched every day since.

The teen has still not been found. WTOC spoke with the missing teen’s family members, and a witness who called 911.

Je’Aarian Belin by all accounts was a typical teenager. He loved spending time with his friends and going to the beach. He’s a big brother, a son, a cousin, and a nephew. He was set to graduate from New Hampstead High School next month, and turn 18 in June. Now, he’s being called a hero.

“They started swimming towards us,” said Maureen McDermott. “The tide kept coming in. The current kept coming in.”

McDermott and her friends were on the beach Sunday afternoon when they say Jay Belin and his two friends got trapped on the sandbar. They called officials and jumped in to help.

“They were able to get McKenna out, and within seconds, we lost sight of Jay,” McDermott said.

The teenager disappeared in the water after going back to help his friends get out safely. His family is devastated, but not surprised by his actions.

“Being the son of a soldier, he was taught never to leave anyone behind, and having a mom as loving and as compassionate as he has, he learned to always give unselfishly, which he did. That’s why he turned around to get his friend. Grown adults would not turn around and do what he did,” said Jay’s aunts, Janice Stuckey-Young and Shena Belin.

“Exactly. Hearing her scream, he turned around.”

In the days since that Easter Sunday turned into the family’s nightmare, they say the waiting has been the hardest.

“Where is he? Have they, you know, when they go out the next day, they tell us they’re going out the next morning and we’re praying like ‘is this the day?’ But that day doesn’t come yet, so we’re still hopeful and praying. We won’t waiver our faith because we know what God can do.”

The close-knit family was supposed to come to Savannah next month to celebrate Jay’s high school graduation. Instead, they all gathered Sunday to support each other and wait.

“I was ready to get him a gift, and you know, see my oldest nephew walk across the stage, and now, we won’t get to see that.”

Authorities say they’ll resume the search on Friday.

Click here for the previous story.

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