UPDATE 6/17: Police have identified the victim as 45-year-old James Wofford of Hampton.
According to police, Wofford, his 4 year-old son and an adult woman had gone into the water to cool off. Wofford put his son on his shoulders and began to wade out into the water underneath the West Norfolk Bridge. The woman saw the boy struggling in the water, quickly rushed over to the child, and pulled him to safety. When the woman looked back she could not see Wofford in the water.
The Medical Examiner will determine the official cause of death.
City spokeswoman Dana Woodson tells 13News Now new signs will be installed in July warning swimmers of the dangers.
PORTSMOUTH – Search teams pulled a body from the waters off Port Norfolk at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. They believe it is the body of a father in his 40s who went missing Monday evening.
Dispatchers received a call around 6:15 p.m. that a man was in distress in the Elizabeth River near the West Norfolk Bridge.
Shawna Provost, who lives nearby, went to the area after she heard sirens. She talked with the sister of the missing man, whom police said was from Hampton. The sister told Provost he was visiting her with his 4-year-old son.
After they ate dinner, they along with the man’s nephew, went down the river. The man had his son on his shoulders. He walked into the shallow water close to land then continued out to one of the outer pilings of the bridge. At that point, he dropped off a ledge and into the water. When the sister, who was on land, realized what happened. She ran into the river. She managed to rescue the 4-year-old. She began shouting for her own son (the man’s nephew) to help. They were unable to rescue her brother.
"I just feel sorry, and sad, because I know how water is, and how you can go under very quick," Provost told 13News Now. "I console 'em the best I can, and just try to make 'em feel comfort, and I had a towel, and we put that around her, because she's getting sick and everything, and I just feel she needs somebody."
The missing man's nephew, who only offered his first name of Joe, is a former Marine swimmer. He made several attempts to find his uncle, as emergency workers attempted to do the same. The nephew told 13News Now his uncle was “a good man man” who “lived for his son.” He also said his uncle was a former Navy swimmer who worked at one of the local shipyards.
"They need to do something about the signs out there, because you can't even see 'em. They're faded, you know, need to put something out of the water, so people, it will actually get their attention. Really dangerous," said John Bryant who has lived in Port Norfolk for years.
He noted other people have found themselves in trouble, often younger people. Like Provost, he and his wife made their way to the water after emergency crews started pouring into the neighborhood.
"I think it was like everybody wanted to see what was going on at first, but we'd rather just support 'em and pray for 'em, you know, 'cause they need that, too," said Bryant. "What can you say when something like this happens. You just want, just kind of help, kind of 'ease 'em as much as you can to let 'em know somebody's there with 'em."
Medics took the 4-year-old boy, who had some water in his lungs, to Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. Late Monday night, he was doing well. Doctors kept him overnight for observation.