Photo by Alexander Nguyen

A 17-year-old boy who is thought to have drowned in the waters off Mission Beach had just settled in the San Diego area this year after he and his family fled war-torn Syria, The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting.

The teen, identified by the Union-Tribune as Mohammed al-Mustafa, went missing in the waves around 6 p.m. Sunday and his body has still not been recovered.

Search efforts have been ongoing, but no search is planned for Wednesday. Authorities believe Mohammed was submerged by a strong rip current.

It was the teen’s first-ever visit to a beach, his father told the U-T via a translator.

“He had pleaded with his parents to let him go on the beach outing with four buddies. Promising to keep in close contact, he later FaceTimed with his father from the beach, where the teens ate pizza and drank soda on the shore,” the U-T reported.

Mohammed, his parents, and four sisters are from the Syrian city of Aleppo; they fled to Turkey in 2014 to escape the violent conflict in their native country, according to the U-T.

“After roughly 18 months of intense vetting, they were allowed to come to America, sponsored by the Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego. The family arrived Jan. 24,” the U-T report continued.

The family settled in El Cajon, according to the report.

St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Oceanside has been helping the family get settled in their new home. For information on how to help the family, visit the church website at


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