PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla — A massive search for a metro Atlanta child ended tragically Tuesday. Police said 6-year-old Enrique Cortez, who was with his family on their vacation in Panama City Beach, Florida, accidentally drowned in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just after 4 p.m. Tuesday, someone at the beach spotted the body of a small child, later confirmed to be Enrique.
“Enrique’s body was found floating in the Gulf of Mexico,” and he had drowned, said Panama City Beach Police Chief J.R. Talamantez.
Enrique was found about a half-mile from the area of the beach where he disappeared just before Noon, Monday.
Enrique and his family had arrived at Panama City Beach, from their home in Metro Atlanta, on Saturday, for a vacation. He was last seen wading in shallow water.
Dozens of first responders searched for Enrique.
A family friend told 11Alive that Enrique’s father works at a McDonough restaurant, and Tuesday evening the owner held a brief prayer vigil there, before driving to the beach to help the family return home.
“Make no mistake, this is not the parents’ fault,” said Chief Talamantez. “This is nobody’s fault. This was a tragic accident. There was hundreds of people around him. And it can happen that quickly. This can happen in the blink of an eye. But this is nobody’s fault. This was an accident.”
Relatives and friends are now trying to raise money for funeral expenses with an online fundraiser, and trying to support the grieving family every other way possible.