“I stood there and watched it happen, and I felt so helpless because there was nothing I could do,” Rebekah Collins said.
Collins says her nephew, Jacob Sayers, was playing in the water with her sons at Rogers Park in Weeki Wachee on Memorial Day when he was swept underwater.
Collins says he swam out of the designated swimming area to get a ball.
“He tried to swim and then the next thing I knew he was going under,” she said.
Losing sight of the 16-year-old, Collins said she ran up to the bridge hoping to find him.
“I couldn’t get to him, so I ran up to the top of the bridge cause he went right under the bridge. I was screaming and yelling, 'My nephew is under the water, somebody please help,'” Collins said.
People nearby found Sayers about 100 yards away from Rogers Park. They pulled him out of the water and tried giving him CPR, but it was too late.
His mom, Sarah Mallett, who lost her oldest son, is in disbelief.
“I'm hurt, I’m angry,” she said.
Mallet said she’s angry that her son has been portrayed as careless or having done something illegal like jumping off the bridge.
People who live near the park say teens are often seen jumping off the bridge despite the no jumping signs and a fence.
“My son would never jump off anything. He’s not that type of person. He’s not a dare devil,” Mallett said.
Deputies assigned to patrol the area said they saw a man attempting to climb to the top of the bridge to jump off around the same time Sayers went under the water.
Tuesday, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office put out a new press release saying that was a separate incident. They said it was initially believed Sayers jumped from the bridge but confirmed Tuesday he was swept under the water.
Sayers was a 10th grader at Gulf High School in Pasco County. His family says he played football, was on the wrestling team and a part of ROTC.
Classmates and friends shared their memories of Sayers online using #FlyHigh65. Sixty-five was his football number.
“He had a whole life ahead of him and now it's gone,” Mallett said.
Sayers' family has started this Go Fund Me page to help pay for funeral expenses. Funeral arraignments are still being finalized.