OAKDALE -- Loved ones of the two Oakland teens believed drowned in the Woodward Reservoir struggled with their grief as the search for the boy’s bodies continued on Sunday. At their backs, two Stanislaus County sheriff’s explorers prayed alongside them.
“He was going to be the next Cam Newton. That was his favorite player," said Samantha Harding, the mother of one of the missing 15-year-olds.
Despite the circumstances, Harding can’t help but smile when she talks about her son Jamari Wilson, who along with is best friend, Josiah Pratt, loved football, clothes and girls.
“He had a confidence that was out of this world, him and Josiah did,” Harding said.
The best friends had gone out on a boat and jumped into the water with two others. David McDaniel, one of the two who survived, said they didn’t think anything of jumping off the boat, they’d done it before with no problems.
All of the boys could swim, according to McDaniel and Harding.
However, this time, McDaniel said they boat left, leaving the four boys far from shore. They were soon exhausted and panicked.
“I saw how far the boat was, so I started screaming with [Wilson], I’m like 'Pops, Pops, help, help,' but nobody came," he said.
That boat and others eventually came back, but only rescued McDaniel and one other, leaving Wilson and Pratt in the water.
A day later, dive teams continued to make use of every minute of daylight to find the best friends.
“They’re a little tired but they’re invested, we’ve had to bring food out to them because they don’t want to take a break. They’re invested, they want to bring the boys home to their family,” said Anthony Bejeran with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office.
Though the reservoir is a controlled body of water, their task isn’t easy. The water is as deep as 15 feet, but divers can only see about a foot in front of them, and in some cases, have to sift through soot by hand.
And the hundreds of other people and vessels on the water complicate things.
Missing now for 40 hours, their families have no illusions about what has happened to Wilson and Pratt. McDaniel struggles to cope with survivor’s guilt.
“I don’t feel cool because I’m here still, that’s the only part that makes me mad,” MacDaniel said.
Harding says her strength comes in part from knowing he died as he lived, beside his best friend.
“The only thing that makes me not hurt so much is because of the fact I know that they’re together,” Harding said.