BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — A mother spoke out on Friday after losing her son off the shore of Coney Island.
Cheetara Artis’s 15-year-old son, Markel Artis, drowned last week. In an exclusive interview with PIX11 News, Cheetara Artis described the terrifying moment she watched helplessly as her son fought for his life in the powerful rip currents at Coney Island Beach.
“I was in a panic. I just can’t believe this was happening so fast,” Artis said.
The mother of two does not know how to swim but said Markel and his younger brother, Aaron, were taught. Aaron was in the water as well but was able to get out. He tried to help his brother but could not reach him.
“It was very traumatic because we were both right there and we saw him and we couldn’t help him,” she said.
The NYPD found Markel’s body days later off the shore of Coney Island. The Artis family always thought of the beach as their refuge and an oasis away from a life often filled with uncertainty and instability, since the family is homeless.
Artis said their Bronx shelter asked them to leave early that morning in order to do state inspections, so the family went to Brooklyn to spend a day at the beach.
About 40 minutes later, that’s when tragedy struck, Artis said. She said it was not clear to them that the water was off-limits.
Markel was known as a good kid, funny, smart, and respectful.
Now Artis is looking for justice for her son. She said the city should have done a better job securing the beach.
“They have to have lifeguards on the entire beach, not just in a certain area,” Artis said.
The family said it took too long for lifeguards to respond to the situation.
Markel’s funeral service will be held on Saturday. A GoFundMe has been set up to help with funeral expenses.