NJ dad claims search for son called off because he’s Muslim
A Jersey City father is alleging the search for his missing son was called off at a state park because he is a Muslim.
But state officials said rescuers risked their lives to help find the 21-year-old
Wajhat Yaqoob went missing at Long Pond Ironworks State Park in West Milford on Thursday after he jumped into a body of water called a "mine hole" with several friends and never resurfaced, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
His friends called West Milford and State Park police and a search began immediately for Yaqoob in the rough water, the DEP said.
The search was called off on Sunday out of concern for the safety of the search divers, according to the DEP.
Yahqoob's father, Mohammad Irshad Malik, wrote on the Jersey City My Home Town Facebook page that the family wants the search continued.
"[There] can not be funeral services without the body, the family will not have any closure," Malik wrote.
Outside of a prayer service on Tuesday, Malin told the Jersey Journal he believes the decision to suspend the search was made because he is a Muslim.
"Two days ago I realized, in America there are three (sets of) laws: for blacks, whites and for Muslims," he was quoted as saying.
"We share in the family’s grief, as surely do all who have participated in the search efforts. In any search effort, the safety of the rescuers has to be taken into consideration," DEP spokesman Bob Considine said in an email. "They go to extreme lengths to help other people, but unfortunately sometimes search efforts do not produce the hoped-for results."
Below the surface, the "mine hole" is rocky and the water is swift moving and cold, officials said.
"The fact is members of dive teams have risked their own lives trying to recover Mr. Yaqoob in very hazardous and difficult conditions," Considine said.
"They did over the course of four days. Additionally, the search hasn’t stopped. Staff remains at the location and will continue to patrol the river’s shoreline. But, for safety reasons, the water search had to be suspended. It wasn’t a decision arrived at lightly, but one that was made through the combined experience and expertise of the DEP, the West Milford Police Department and the State Police."