Family of teen missing in James River holds on to hope

Published: Jun. 26, 2013 at 11:48 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2013 at 11:53 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The second day of searching for a 15-year-old boy, swept away in the James River, has come to a close. Dive teams packed up around 5 p.m., Wednesday evening.

Emerson Joshua Zelaya's family says he was swimming with his brother and two friends, Tuesday afternoon.

Zelaya was somehow taken under the current. His brother and friends weren't able to grab hold of him. He was last seen floating by the Mayo Bridge. Now, the brutal wait continues for Zelaya's family, to find closure.

Zelaya's family showed up at the Mayo Bridge, after learning the search was suspended for the evening. The rescue efforts have been centered along the river near the bridge. Relatives say they're determined to search for Zelaya themselves.

Richmond firefighters are calling this a recovery mission, at this point. However, Zelaya's family is still praying that he's somehow alive.

Rescue boats, dive teams, K9 units, planes, and sonar cameras have revealed nothing, so far. Zelaya's cousin, Alfredo Hernandez, says Zelaya and his twin brother swam out into the river, away from the popular swim area by Tredegar Street.

However, Hernandez says the current was too strong. Zelaya somehow became distressed, and was carried away.

"We're hoping that he is surviving... maybe just beaten up...maybe he's just in coma on the side of the river," said Hernandez.

Zelaya's family is trying to cope with what is becoming a grimmer reality, by the minute.

"I'm sure you can imagine, they're destroyed totally... We hope that he's alive," continued Hernandez.

Zelaya's family says he's very friendly, intelligent, knowledgeable with computers, and was to be a freshman at James River High School, next year.

Search crews will resume combing the river for Zelaya Thursday morning.

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