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'He was the sweetest boy': Parents share final moments before son drowned in Boynton Inlet

Saul Cerrato Jr., 8, fell into choppy waters while fishing with his dad
Saul Cerrato, 8, pictured with his father, Saul Cerrato Sr.
Posted at 8:44 PM, Jun 17, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Parents of the 8-year-old boy who drowned at the Boynton Inlet on Thursday have identified him as Saul Cerrato Jr.

"He was the sweetest boy that will ever be," said the boy's mother Roxanne Batista. "He was the life of the house. The house feels dead without him."

Batista said the child had been fishing since he was 4 years old, a skill he learned from his father, Saul Cerrato Sr.

Loved ones said he wanted to be just like his father when he grew up.

"He would get up in the morning and offer his dad coffee. They would make it to go fishing together," said Batista. "He would come and show me his fishing book and he would tell me every fish's name, what they were, how many you can catch, the size, everything."

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The two frequently fished together at Lake Worth Beach and the Boynton Inlet.

"All the fishermen there knew him. There were other guys that took their kids to fish and he had friends there. They would fish together," Batista said.

The inlet would be the last place their son would cast his line.

"Everything was normal until he fell in. I didn't notice. It all happened in seven to eight seconds. I don't know," said Cerrato Sr., who speaks Spanish. "When I noticed he was gone, I started to scream, 'Papi, where are you? When I realized he was gone, I ran to the top of the bridge and looked to see if I could see him in the water."

It took first responders more than four hours to find his son's body, which Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said had been taken out into the ocean.

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The family spent Father's Day mourning their tragic loss.

"No, no Father's Day for me," said Cerrato Sr. "I'm not a good father. I cannot protect my son."

The family said they were able to recover their son's fishing rod but haven't returned since the incident happened.

The fishing rod is one of the few mementos they have of their son along with drawings and paintings that he made.

WPTV reporter Joel Lopez asked the father what is giving him strength in the days following the drowning.

"My kids," Cerrato Sr. replied.

Saul Jr. was the second oldest of six children. His parents said he was very protective of his siblings.

"How are the rest of your kids?" asked Lopez.

"Oh, they feel it. My 5-year-old, she was very attached to him," said Batista. "My two youngest don't understand really what's going on, but I tell them that he's an angel that's in the sky now and a star when they look outside. The oldest is really upset because she never got to say goodbye to him that morning."

They said the boy knew how to swim, but he was not strong enough to battle the current in the inlet.

The family is fundraising money to have their son buried in a tree pod on their property. They said Saul had a passion for fresh fruit and gardening.