HARDIN COUNTY, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A 16-year-old Hardin County boy is dead after drowning in a pond while swimming with his friends Thursday night. It happened just south of Radcliff last night near the intersection of Centennial Avenue and Blackjack Road.
Family said the teen did know how to swim and police said they do not suspect foul play, so exactly what happened in that small pond is still under investigation.
Finishing his junior year at North Hardin High School only weeks ago, Elijah Thornton was a staff favorite.
"The thing that’s the most memorable about Elijah is he's just a sweet young man, a very gentle spirit, and he always greeted everybody," Shanae Thompson, North Hardin High School math teacher, said.
The halls inside the school are now empty for summer break. It’s a vacancy Thompson said will still be here when students return in the fall.
"We just hate to lose somebody so young, especially somebody who has that potential to go out and make an impact," she said.
Police said Thornton was swimming with his friends in a pond Thursday night when he went underwater and never came back up. His friends called for help. Police and dive teams responded to the scene.
Family said it took the dive team three hours to find his body.
"The hole that he's going to leave in there is kind of like an empty feeling, kind of like part of you isn't there," Thornton’s brother, Damon Mansfield said.
Mansfield--Elijah's older brother--drove all night after getting the news.
Looking over the scene for the first time Friday morning, he said the pain is hard to describe.
"It’s been really emotional, especially for my mother. She's not doing well at all right now," Mansfield said.
Mansfield said his brother loved music and spending time with his friends. One of four children, family was always important to Thornton.
Now his brother said they are turning to their faith to help make it through.
"I’m not going to mourn, I’m going to celebrate because I know he's in a better place and I’m trying to get my family to realize that," Mansfield said.
That painful process is only just beginning.