Search ends for Jamaica girl missing off Rockaway Beach

Police divers and U.S. Coast Guard search boats comb the waters off Rockaway Beach for missing swimmer Tiara Coaxum. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
By Ivan Pereira

Despite more than a day of searching by several police and U.S. Coast Guard crews, the authorities called off rescue operations for a Jamaica girl who was swept away by a riptide off the Rockaways.

On Friday, two 16-year-old girls, identified by the New York Post as Tiara Coaxum and Carla Armaza, were pulled away from the shorelineby the tide as they were swimming in Rockaway Beach around 3:50 p.m., police said. Although lifeguards were able to save Armaza, a Jackson Heights resident, according to the Post, they could not find her friend.

“I haven't slept, I haven't eaten,” Coaxum's mother, Tikhia Williams, told the paper from her Jamaica home. “I have been up all night waiting for my child to come home.”

Armaza was taken to Peninsula Hospital and was in stable condition, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said. The Coast Guard could not confirm reports that Armaza, who the Post said attended Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica with Coaxum, tried to save her friend from being taken away by the current.

“My daughter tried to get to that girl, but she couldn't. She couldn't reach her,” Armaza's mother, Roza, told the Post.

Williams said she was surprised that her daughter would go swimming in the first place because she had a limp from an injury, according to the paper.

The Coast Guard and police immediately sent search and rescue crews to comb the waters for the girl, both agencies said. For more than 24 hours, cutter boats, divers and helicopters searched the ocean for Coaxum, but did not find her body, according to the Coast Guard.

Around 8 p.m. Saturday, the Coast Guard suspended its search after its crews could not find any sign of her. The NYPD also suspended its search and rescue operation and began a body recovery, a police spokeswoman said.

Neither agency officially had declared her drowned as of press time Tuesday.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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