After a three-day-harrowing search, a child's body recovered on Randall's Island on Tuesday is believed to be that of the 5-year-old boy who went missing on Saturday after falling into the Harlem River, the New York Post reported. Brendan Mitchell was last seen by his brother falling from a tree and into the water shortly before 2:30 p.m. Witnesses who were nearby said that the little boy was seen floating away as his horrified parents watched him vanish.
The FDNY, NYPD and Coast Guard searched the river. Divers and members from the Emergency Service Unit from the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan searched by by boat, helicopter and foot near Randall’s Island for hours on Saturday and Sunday trying to locate the boy. Search efforts continued as firefighters scanned the surface of the river in the Bronx using binoculars and a six-foot-long pole.
The little boy's remains were found around 11:30 a.m. near a loading dock, cops said. City workers were in the process of removing the remains to positively identify them, a police spokesman told the newspaper.
Authorities said Brendan was with his family on Saturday near the water at Harlem River Field 7 when he tumbled into the water.
The family, was there, according to witnesses, for his brother’s soccer practice. Sunday was supposedly the first big game of the season. As the kids practiced, the little boy, got distracted and began climbing a tree close to the water in the Bronx Kill, police said. At some point, the boy lost his grip, fell into the water, and was quickly swept away, reported WABC-TV.
The boy, who was wearing shorts and no shirt, disappeared by the Bronx Shore Road near the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, reported the New York Post. He was last seen just downriver as the current carried him westbound.
Rosa Mencia was in the area with her family on Saturday, and saw the devastating tragedy unfold.
“The family were in the field with the children and many children were playing soccer,” Mencia told the New York Daily News. “Then one child was running, just running to the water” she said. “The boy — he went right down. People ran into the water, and they couldn’t get him. They were crying.”
Other witnesses said the boy’s father caught a glimpse of his son feet away from the water and then took off running before jumping into the river to try and save his son, reported the Post.
Mencia added: “I looked at the father and he threw himself to the floor,” she said. “He was crying.”
Karim Hutson was one of the people who rushed to aid in the search. He told the News that there were at least 10 people stripping off their clothes and running towards the water to help locate the little boy.
“Everybody was trying to see what they can do,” said Huston, who called the ordeal “tragic.” “There’s so much litter in the water made it hard to see.”
Resident Edwin Flores who goes to the area almost every day to take photographs, told the News he saw the boy’s parents come out of the water after trying to rescue their son. He described the river’s current on Saturday as very strong and the tide was high when the tragedy occurred.
“The two jumped into the water,” said Flores in Spanish. “Quickly. The child disappeared one-two-three.”
A GoFundMe Page has been created for Wade and LaRae Mitchell and their two other sons, on behalf of their youngest boy, Brendan.