Enrique Cortez-Dubon, the 6-year-old boy who went missing Monday, was found dead on a Florida beach one day later, approximately 1.5 miles away from his last known location. The Georgia boy’s body was found on the sand in the 8600 block of Surf Drive at around 4 p.m. Tuesday, though the cause of death has not been identified by police.
Cortez-Dubon was last seen around 11:30 a.m. on July 5 playing on the beach at Shores of Panama resort in Panama City Beach. His parents, who only realized he had gone missing a little after noon, immediately called the police. A large-scale search made up of more than 80 first responders was launched late afternoon Monday.
In a tweet, Panama City Beach confirmed the boy’s tragic death, explaining that “the body of 6-year-old Enrique Cortez-Dubon has been recovered between public beach accesses 21 and 22 on Surf Drive.” The post confirmed that his body was found “approximately 1.5 miles east of where he was last seen more than 24 hours ago. Our condolences go to the family.”
Cortez-Dubon and his family were vacationing at the Shores of Panama condominium where he was last seen by his parents. Though the cause of death is unknown, Panama City Beach Police admitted that he possibly drowned in the ocean.
“The 6-year-old appears to have drowned,” police said in the statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
In a Tuesday evening press conference, Chief J.R. Talamantez admitted to reporters that “this was nobody’s fault.” He continued, saying “this was a tragic accident. Of course, this is not the outcome we would have wanted, but it is some closure for the family.”
“Make no mistake,” he said to reporters, “this was not the parents’ fault… The Gulf of Mexico is a dangerous place and you need to respect it as you would anything else that is dangerous. Enrique was a small child, there were hundreds of people around him, and it could happen that quickly.”
The chief then urged parents to have conversations with their children regarding water safety, and to understand that this can happen “in the blink of an eye.” Talamantez did show regret during the conference that he and the rescue teams didn’t find the boy sooner, as it might have changed the outcome of the investigation.
According to the chief, members of the Beach Police, Panama City Police Department, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, Florida Fish, and Wildlife Conservation Commissions, U.S. Coast Guard, and local firefighters all aided in the massive search and rescue operation.
Talamantez also confirmed that advanced technologies were used in the search, including drones and helicopters. The tragic incident is being deemed an accident at this point in the investigation, though officials haven’t ruled out foul play. During the search and rescue operations, police considered the case a possible abduction, though “the evidence leads us to believe he went missing in the water,” according to police.
One vacationer from Tennessee, Christina Major, said she saw 6-year-old Enrique playing in the sand with his family on Monday morning. “When we saw his picture, we knew exactly who it was,” Major explained. “I know we personally don’t know them, but it just breaks my heart. That’s every parent’s worst fear. I couldn’t imagine having to live that through.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to support Enrique’s family. The fund has already surpassed its goal of $10,000. The money will help cover funeral expenses for Enrique Cortez-Dubon, who, his family says, “was taken away from this world way too soon by a tragic accident.”