Memorial pays tribute to Hempstead boy


Dozens of family members and friends gathered on Edwards Boulevard beach on June 21 to honor the memory of Ramell McRae Jr., a 10-year-old boy who disappeared in the water last week while swimming.

The boy’s father, Ramell McRae, organized the vigil, during which many residents of Hempstead, Roosevelt and Uniondale carried green balloons to represent hope. McRae said people came from as far away as Delaware for the memorial.

“I’m just going to go find my son, and I’m going to get him out of the water,” McRae told WCBS-TV on June 20.

On Sunday, Long Beach police said the body of a young boy was pulled from the water at Lincoln Boulevard beach, nearly a week after a massive search effort began for McRae Jr. At about 12:30 p.m., the Nassau County Police Department’s Marine Bureau located the body about 250 yards off the shore, Stark said.

“We believe it’s the boy but cannot determine [that] until the medical examiner investigates,” said Lt. Mark Stark, a Long Beach Police Department spokesman.

As the Herald went to press on Wednesday, the boy’s identity had yet to be confirmed.

Police said that McRae Jr. and his older brother, 11-year-old Jaquan, were believed to have taken a bus from Hempstead to Long Beach unattended on June 19 and gone swimming at Edwards Boulevard beach. Both became distressed in the rough water near the jetty, and first responders rushed to the scene just before 6 p.m.

“They should have just asked me. I would have just took them,” McRae told WCBS, adding that he didn’t know the boys were going to the beach.

“I was really focused on finding my child,” McRae wrote to the Herald on Facebook. He could not immediately be reached for further comment.

Officials said that two off-duty Nassau County police officers, who were playing volleyball nearby, were among those who rushed over to help.

Jaquan was removed from the water and taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside in stable condition, where he was joined by his mother, Long Beach police spokesman Lt. Eric Cregeen said.

Long Beach Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said that the rip currents were strong on June 19, adding that the water can be particularly dangerous near the jetties.

“They were both in trouble,” Kemins told the Herald last week. “I’m not sure if [the older brother] was helped out or got out on his own, but his brother never came out.”

Lifeguards were not yet on duty for the summer — they began operating full-time on June 23 — and swimming is prohibited when lifeguards are not present.

The search included more than 50 Long Beach lifeguards, firefighters, police, the U.S. Coast Guard, Nassau County and New York City police, as well as first responders and firefighters from the Town of Hempstead, Island Park, Wantagh, Atlantic Beach and East Rockaway, and involved personal watercraft, boats, helicopters and divers.

The Coast Guard said that rescue crews covered more than 310 nautical miles over the course of 22 hours. Kemins and Cregeen said that a crew of lifeguards and police continued to scour the beach in the days after Ramell disappeared in the hopes of finding his body.

“Everyone in Long Beach was heartbroken by learning about the events that took place on Tuesday,” City Councilwoman Anissa Moore said. “It hurts all of us. Ramell could be anyone’s son. At least the family members were able to cry and mourn.”

Danielle Darcy, a friend of the boy’s father, created a Gofundme page that was shared on social media. The fund had collected $1,390 of its $2,000 goal as of press time on Wednesday.

“There is nothing more tragic than the loss of a child,” Darcy wrote. “No amount of money raised will remove the pain the family is experiencing, but we can do what we can to alleviate some of the stress that comes with everything that has happened.”