12686725088?profile=RESIZE_710xRescue personnel from Palm Beach County and other local and federal agencies search for the 8-year-old boy along the north side of the Boynton Inlet. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Anne Geggis and Mary Kate Leming

Police are investigating how a fishing outing turned tragic at Ocean Inlet Park in Boynton Beach early June 13, claiming an 8-year-old boy’s life in Boynton Inlet — widely known in the boating community as one of the state’s most dangerous.

The cause of death for Saul Cerrato-Vasquez of West Palm Beach has not been made public because he is a minor, and the official report had not been released as of early July because it concerned an active investigation.

Initial reports were that the boy and his father were fishing on the park’s south jetty on the west side of the State Road A1A bridge over the Boynton Inlet, authorities said. The call for help came at 6:09 a.m.

Capt. Tom Reyes of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said that the victim fell into the water when his companion, presumably his father, turned to attend to some fishing equipment.

The boy is one of six children and was attending Hope-Centennial Elementary School, his mother, Roxanne Batista, said in a tearful, brief conversation with The Coastal Star. She acknowledged setting up a GoFundMe account so her son’s remains can be buried in such a way that they grow with a tree. By early July, the effort had raised more than $3,400.

12686726097?profile=RESIZE_710xDivers signal to the boat driver that they are clear after placing the body of the boy into a rescue boat. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

The 6900 block of North Ocean Boulevard, or A1A, was briefly closed to traffic as the rescue effort involving dozens of first responders ramped up.

Multiple agencies, including the U.S. Border Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, responded to the inlet with divers, inflatable boats, Jet Skis and helicopters.

Reyes said the mission was declared a “recovery” operation at 7:55 a.m. The body was recovered nearly five hours after the initial call, about 100 yards from where the boy reportedly fell in. The recovery was on the northeast side of the bridge, however.

The jetty at Ocean Inlet Park is a popular place to fish — one of the few places open to fishing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That morning, there was a strong current in the inlet with the outgoing tide, but the ocean was relatively calm.

This year, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue has responded to four open water incidents in the Boynton Inlet, twice the number of last year at the same time, said Reyes.

One of those incidents involved another drowning, in May (see related story).

“The width and depth of the Boynton Inlet, along with the strong tidal flow that passes through, can make it very dangerous,” Reyes wrote in an email.

Boca Raton first responders don’t categorize water calls to the inlet in the same way that would allow comparisons, but Michael LaSalle, Boca Raton Fire Rescue’s public information officer, said the level of danger at the Boynton Inlet, from a boating perspective, is far greater than at the Boca Inlet. He would rate it the second- most dangerous in the state, next to Baker’s Haulover Inlet in Miami-Dade County.

Zack Thomas, who writes a blog for Boat Outfitters, which supplies boat builders with custom fabricated accessories, puts Boynton Inlet in the top tier of those that should be used only if you know what you’re doing because of what he calls “machine washing conditions.”

Photographer Tim Stepien contributed to this story.

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