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Family of little boy lost to ocean thanks community

Wesley and his family spent their time visiting the Outer Banks going to the aquarium and the Lost Colony, seeing the wild horses on tour in Corolla and just enjoying time on the beach together.

“We were very excited for our trip to Kitty Hawk,” his mother said in a statement read during a Sunday memorial gathering on the beach near where he was swept away. “Wesley was excited to visit the state of North Carolina. We spent some of our days on the beach: collecting shells, digging holes in the sand, building sandcastles and walking on the beach as a family with our dog.”

The unthinkable happened during one of those seaside walks Wednesday afternoon. The waves were deceptively rough, and one knocked into Wesley and his mother. Before she knew it, she’d lost sight of him in the surf.

Five hours of searching by air and sea over 130 nautical square miles turned up no sign of the Manchester, New Hampshire boy, whose last name has not been publicly released.

Dressed mostly in orange, Wesley’s favorite color, dozens of local residents gathered on the beach in Kitty Hawk late Sunday afternoon near a homespun seashell memorial, where Duck resident Mary Dunstan read the message from the boy’s family.

“Wesley’s family wants to send our sincere gratitude to Kitty Hawk for everything you have done to help rescue or recover our precious little boy,” the statement read.

“Thank you again to [Kitty Hawk Police] Chief Joel Johnson and his department, the Coast Guard and all of the many rescue personnel and private citizen searchers who continue to search the beaches and the water. Also thank you to Mary and Rose [Nuzzi] for honoring Wesley with this beautiful tribute. Our family has been devastated by this terrible accident and your prayers and well wishes are comforting us.”

Mary Dunstan and Rose Nuzzi helped start the seashell memorial after the boy vanished. Shaped in a heart, with messages of support and love written on shells, the memorial blossomed from there, with toys and trinkets, messages in a blue bottle, memorial books filled with messages and a driftwood cross.

On Sunday, a photo of the preschooler, with sandy-colored hair and a smile, sat at the head of the seashell heart.

Volunteers packed all of it in boxes Sunday, and it will be sent to Wesley’s family. Outer Banks Shipping has offered to send the shells and mementos.