High school student drowns on field trip

Witnesses said student couldn't be rescued in time


NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Florida – A local high school's trip to the beach turned tragic when a 17-year-old student drowned in New Smyrna Beach.

After a two and a half hour search, the body of J.J. Branchador was pulled from the ocean.

Branchador was swimming with a large group beside Bethune Beach Park when he and five other teenagers went a little too far, according to Volusia County Beach Patrol officers.

"A wave knocked them over, and they got in overhead water, sounds like a rip current pulled them out to sea, and they started struggling in the surf," said Cpt. David Vanis.

Officers say five teenagers were rescued and that two were taken to the hospital.

Branchador, a student at Walker Memorial Academy in Avon Park, was on the field trip with students from Forest Lake Academy in Apopka.

In a statement released to the press, administrators at Forest Lake Academy said the the safety and well fare of its students is the school's top priority and that they are shocked and saddened by the drowning.

"We want to thank all of those who have been involved in the search and rescue operation," the statement said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents of JJ, the students of these institutions, and our extended church family. We are working with the authorities at this time and will keep you updated as we know more."