Two Baton Rouge brothers drowned near the Alabama and Florida border Friday night after their grandfather said the older brother tried to save the younger boy, who had been caught in a riptide.
The grandfather of the brothers, Steward Spencer I, said 19-year-old Steward Spencer III tried to save his younger brother, 12-year-old Joshua Spencer. He said both boys did know how to swim.
“They got in the riptide,” he said. “They weren’t in high water. The waves came up and ... the wave was pulling (Joshua) out and he (Steward) went to try and save his brother and then another tide came in and pulled him in too.”
A call went in to officials about 7:12 p.m. Friday after the two swimmers "went under the water and did not come up" approximately 20 yards from the shore near a resort on Perdido Beach Boulevard in Orange Beach, according to a news release from the Coast Guard.
The search was suspended overnight but ended early Saturday morning when the bodies of the two boys were recovered from the Gulf of Mexico, according to posts from the Orange Beach Police Department.
“When you’re in that kind of water, you panic,” said Steward Spencer I, referring to the riptide. “He was trying to save his younger brother. They were very close, a close-knit family.”
The grandfather said the family went to the beach on a vacation on Thursday and was suppose to return Sunday. Another boy, who the grandfather identified as the brother's cousin, was also in the water, but is safe.
Steward Spencer III was studying at a local college and working at his father's lawn care business, according to Spencer's stepmother Shelia Newman. Spencer just turned 19 on Aug. 7.
Joshua Spencer was studying in the magnet program at Scotlandville Middle School, their grandfather said. Newman said Joshua also loved basketball and recently competed in a tournament in Florida.
“They were good kids. They were very good, very smart in school,” their grandfather said. “Good behavior. They got along with everybody.”
East Baton Rouge Schools will provide support to the students and staff at Scotlandville Middle School this week, according to a statement released by spokeswoman Gwynn Shamlin.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends as they grieve during this tragedy," the statement said. "As a school district, we will work to provide support for the students and faculty of the school by providing counseling and support through this difficult period. School guidance counselors, I CARE specialists, and other support staff will be on campus Monday morning."
Can't see video below? Click here.