Coast Guard suspends search for teen

Photographer: Picture courtesy of Patient family
Photographer: Picture courtesy of Patient family

JUNO BEACH, FL (WFLX) - A mother, trying to stay hopeful, is coping with the devastating reality that her 16-year-old son may have drowned off Juno Beach.

Previously: Now, Billy Patients's family is pointing fingers at the people who were supposed to be watching him. "I'm not holding up. I'm angry. I'm scared. I feel a little guilty," said Rita Patient, Billy's mom. 

She's spent the past days handing out flyers of her son.

Billy went missing off of Juno Beach after going swimming with other teens Sunday from The Academy, a West Palm Beach substance abuse treatment facility. "The last place Billy was seen was on the beach in the water. The counselor states that he saw Billy, and that he asked Billy and some of the other boys to come closer to the beach, and that he turned his back on them."

The Coast Guard has called off their search for the teen. Meanwhile, Billy's family is blaming The Academy -- the place they "thought" would treat him for his depression and addiction. "I reached out. I thought I was helping him. I thought this was the best thing I could do because I couldn't help him anymore."

Previously: Rita Patient's 16-year-old son, Billy, has been missing off the northern Palm Beach County coast since Sunday afternoon.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended their search for the Brevard County teen Monday night with uncertainty about when or if the search will continue on Tuesday.

Ms. Patient remembers the last exchange she had with her son. "The last thing he did was he hugged me tight and said 'I love you, Mom,'" she said. "I said 'I love him'".

That was on Sunday just before Billy waded into the ocean water near the Juno Beach Pier. "He only had on the green shorts that he was wearing," she said.

Billy is in Palm Beach County receiving treatment at a place called The Academy, a facility run by American Addiction Centers designed to help teens deal with destructive habits and compulsive behaviors.

"We were trying to give him tough love, and we sent him away. And this is what happened, and we can't find him," said Pam Jenkins, Billy's sister.

The teen was with a group of about a dozen boys from The Academy. When it was time to come out of the water, Billy was no where in sight. "When he did a head count, Billy wasn't with them," said Billy's mother.

Conditions along the coast have been rough for even the strongest of swimmers. Lifeguards have been warning people of shore break and rip currents over the last couple of days. "He's a good swimmer, but it the current was bad, that could be different," said Ms. Patient.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been on the water and in the air along Juno and Jupiter beaches searching for the teen. So far, they have not found him. His mother says it is breaking her heart. "As much as he wants to be grown up, he is still very much a little boy inside," she said.

A request for comment from American Addiction Centers was not immediately returned.

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