Boy drowns at beach during Lauderdale-by-the-Sea July 4 event

Right before a planned rescue demonstration

A 7-year-old boy drowned while swimming at the beach at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea on Monday afternoon in the midst of a July Fourth celebration.

The boy, Carrington Clarke of the Bahamas, drowned about 3:30 p.m. during a family gathering at El Prado Park on the 4500 block of North Ocean Drive, officials said. Carrington and his brother had flown into Fort Lauderdale from the Bahamas on Sunday to visit his uncle, Jameka Ferguson of Fort Lauderdale. Ferguson said Carrington stays with him every summer.

"He was a beautiful boy," the uncle said. "He wanted to grow up to be a lawyer. He loved to swim."

The family had gone to the beach with some friends.The group included three adults and eight children. Ferguson said they had been at the beach about 20 minutes, and Carrington drank a couple of sodas before going into the water.

About 3:27 p.m., Carrington and three other children attempted to swim to a sandbar about 50 yards from shore, Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Dani Moschella said.

"I got a feeling he got caught up in the wave. There were no flags out saying there was a riptide," Ferguson said. "He was a pretty good swimmer for his age."

An 11-year-old girl made it to the sandbar, but when she turned around, she noticed the other three struggling in the water, Moschella said.

Adults jumped in to rescue the children, but Carrington slipped under water, and the adults lost sight of him. About 10 to 15 minutes later, a BSO helicopter located him about 100 yards south of where he was last seen. A Lauderdale-by-the-Sea volunteer firefighter on a personal watercraft and lifeguards pulled him from the water. Paramedics performed CPR and took Carrington to Holy Cross Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:28 p.m., sheriff's officials said.

The drowning happened just before a planned rescue demonstration, so lifeguards, volunteer firefighters and paramedics were on scene when a lifeguard noticed several children in distress in the water, Moschella said.

Witnesses said they didn't realize at first that this was a real emergency and not part of the demonstration.

The Broward County medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

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