PERTH AMBOY — The family of the 17-year-old who drowned in Raritan Bay on Thursday is remembering him as "the sweetest soul on earth."

A 30-year-old man tried to rescue the teen after he fell into the water near the Raritan Yacht Club about 2:30 p.m, according to Fire Chief Edward Mullen. When firefighters and divers located the boy more than two hours later using side scan sonar, he was in cardiac arrest. The boy was taken to Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center.

Police told NBC 4 New York the current is strong in that area and swimming is not allowed. A witness told CBS New York that the teen went into the water with some friends who tried to swim to a buoy.

The family identified the teen as Johnny Vasquez in a statement to NBC 4 New York and called him a "special boy" with a heart of gold.

Mayor Wilda Diaz offered prayers for the Vasquez family on her Facebook page.

His cousin, Deanna Kertesz Nye, created a GoFundMe page to help his parents with funeral expenses.

"He would do anything for anyone. He loved riding his bike with his friends and loved being with his family most. His smile said it all," Nye wrote.

Rescue effort for a teen in Raritan Bay (Perth Amboy Fire Department)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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