Mother sits vigil for teen presumed drowned in Ocean City

With relatives on the Ocean City beach, Tasha Hammond (center) looks at photos of son Corinthian, 14, who went missing Sunday in the surf.
With relatives on the Ocean City beach, Tasha Hammond (center) looks at photos of son Corinthian, 14, who went missing Sunday in the surf. (AMY S. ROSENBERG / Staff)
Posted: July 03, 2014

OCEAN CITY, N.J. - It was a terribly sad gathering under a beating hot sun out by the Ninth Street jetty Tuesday afternoon, even as beachgoers sat under umbrellas not far away.

Surrounded by relatives, Tasha Hammond of the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia, dressed in black jeans, sat directly on the sand and said she would stay for days more if necessary, standing watch for her son, Corinthian, 14, lost Sunday night in the surf in a rip current.

The Coast Guard had searched for two days, then called off its efforts without finding the boy. Hammond said she would continue her vigil for her son, but she no longer held out hope of his being rescued.

"He was trying to help everyone," she said. "He died saving them."

The family, through the Ocean City Police Department, invited the media to speak with them Tuesday on the beach.

Hammond said her son, a recent graduate of Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, had accompanied a friend to celebrate his moving out of Philadelphia to Ocean City.

A group of boys went swimming about 7 p.m., after lifeguard hours, off the jetty and were quickly swept up in rough currents, police said. There are numerous signs in the area warning of the dangerous surf near the jetty, despite its central location in the heart of the Ocean City boardwalk.

An after-hours lifeguard team was a few blocks away and responded, rescuing swimmers and those who went in after them. But Corinthian was not found and was still missing Tuesday afternoon.

Hammond stayed focused on photos and videos of her son as she sat in the sand, and other relatives tied balloons and flowers near the jetty.

"He was going to be something," said a great-uncle, Jerome Hammond. "Corey was the type of kid, he was trying to help everybody. An all-around good kid. If I could put a book together for him - to be just 14, he was one helluva kid."

A cousin, Jaquil Hunter, 11, was with the group of swimmers Sunday and said Corinthian had tried to pull him in on his back. "A big wave came in and knocked us all out of place," he said. "He tried to pull me on his back, and he went under. A lady came and got me and another boy."

Most others on the beach kept a respectful distance from the gathering, but Chrissy Jaselskis of South Carolina came and sat with Tasha Hammond and held her hand.

"I'm here to just pray with her," said Jaselskis, visiting her mother in Ocean City. "Like every mom who has a broken heart. It could have been any of our kids."


arosenberg@phillynews.com

609-823-0453

@amysrosenberg

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