The bodies of three boys were found Sunday in a creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and authorities said they apparently had drowned.

The boys, two 12-year-old cousins and an 8-year-old family friend, were found in Marshyhope Creek in Federalsburg, where all three lived. Their names were not immediately released.

The boys were last seen playing basketball Saturday afternoon at a church near the creek. Authorities said it was possible that one or all of them had entered the creek to cool off.

The deaths have “absolutely devastated the community,” said Capt. Jerry Kirkwood of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police. “Three separate families have lost a young son.”

The tidal creek, a tributary of the Nanticoke River, is about 20 yards wide and averages 5 to 10 feet deep, Kirkwood said. Possibly, he said, one boy got into trouble in the water and the others went in to help.

The three were reported missing about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, and police made a preliminary search, the Caroline County Department of Emergency Services said.

Parents continued the search throughout the night, the department said.

When the boys failed to return by daylight, volunteers joined the search.

Dogs reportedly led searchers to the creek from the church where the boys had been playing.

An investigation was underway Sunday night, but Kirkwood said nothing had been found indicating anything other than “a tragic accident.”

Federalsburg is a town of 2,700 about a two-hour drive southeast of Washington. It is a few miles from the Maryland-Delaware state line.