HALF MOON BAY (CBS SF) — The search for an 18-year-old high school senior from Hayward feared drowned in waters off Half Moon Bay has been concluded without his body being located.
A vigil Friday night at Hayward High School in honor of Naphtali Moimoi drew dozens of teammates and friends who were supposed to be on spring break.
They lit candles around a picture of the football standout and his jersey, number 50. Moimoi was a star athlete who was slated to play for the University of Wyoming in the fall on a full scholarship.
“He was just a great young man. He was loyal. He persevered in spite of all the circumstances thrown in front of him. He was a great football player, a great teammate, a great friend,” said Hayward High football coach Justin Redemer
Moimoi was on a spring break outing and was boogie-boarding with friends at Poplar Beach Thursday when a wave knocked him off his board. His friends told police they saw him facedown in the water and that they were unable to reach him before he disappeared.
A frantic search by rescue crews was eventually declared a recovery effort Thursday evening. The search for Moimoi’s body resumed Friday morning after it was suspended because of darkness and surf conditions Thursday night.
Later Friday, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office announced it had concluded its search.
Family members were in Half Moon Bay hoping to bring his body home Friday.
“Everybody is trying to stay strong, we just want him to come home with us. We don’t want to drag this out too long,” said his mother, Lisa Moimoi. “I just don’t want him to be out there alone, that’s what I was hoping for, but who knows.”
The family is hoping for the closure of recovering his remains.
“We just hope that he’ll come back to us, so we can take him home,” said Moimoi.
Her sister and Naphtali’s aunt Silini Shaff said her nephew lived for his friends.
“He’s a happy guy. Wanted to be with his friends always,” said Shaff. “So that’s what they were doing yesterday, They went and bought lunch and came here to celebrate.”
“Yesterday we suffered a tremendous loss. A young man was taken away too soon. His perseverance, loyalty and strength inspired all of us. His future was limitless. We grieve his loss but know that our lives are forever changed by his influence,” Hayward High Farmers football posted on Twitter Friday.
KPIX 5 spoke with Naphtali’s Hayward High Head Coach Justin Redemer, who remembered him as an ideal player.
“He was the kind of player every coach would want. Dedicated, hard-working, disciplined, loyal, focused, He wanted to succeed. Always giving 100 percent,” said Redemer. “It’s a tragedy. He was a great young man. To have something like this happen is really difficult.”
Redemer had a particularly close relationship with Naphtali. He said the star player would babysit his children.
“He liked to goof around, which was funny, because he’s this huge guy,” said Redemer. “But he was also really gentle. You could see that in how he interacted with kids.”
The sheriff’s office is still treating the case as a missing persons report because they haven’t located a body, sheriff’s spokesman Rosemerry Blankswade said, but there are no plans to start up another search at this time.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s office was helped in the search by the U.S. Coast Guard, Cal Fire, the Harbor Patrol and the California Highway Patrol.