Teen’s Drowning At Bear Mountain State Park Under Investigation

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Grief counselors were at a Brooklyn school Tuesday, a day after a student died during a class trip.

Jean Fritz Pierre, a 16-year-old freshman at Brooklyn International High School, drowned Monday while swimming at Hessian Lake in Bear Mountain State Park.

School officials said several dozen students were hiking through the park on a field trip to mark the end of the school year when two students left the group to go swimming in the lake.

A short time later, Pierre was reported missing. By about 4 p.m., his body was found and pulled from the water eight feet from the shore, about an hour after he disappeared.

The Department of Education released a statement saying, “Our thoughts are with the family and school community during this difficult time.”

Instead of celebrating the end of the school year, students are now mourning the death of their classmate.

“It’s going to be a sad time for everyone,” one student said.

“A kid dying and drowning and everything, it’s just sad,” said ninth grader Anaya Robinson.

“He was funny and used to make fun a lot — not with people — and he loved to play basketball,” ninth grader Tanvil Ahmed told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

Three years ago, Harlem sixth grader Nicole Suriel drowned while on a school swimming trip to Long Beach.

An investigation found there were 24 students on the trip but only three chaperones. There were also no lifeguards and parents never signed permission slips.

Following that tragedy, the DOE made a slew of changes, including a requirement to add more chaperones.

In Monday’s incident at Bear Mountain, school officials said five chaperones were supervising 48 kids — roughly the same ratio of students to adults. The DOE said all students had signed permission slips.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said protocol was followed and called Pierre’s death a tragic accident.

“The child was supervised,” Walcott said. “I think it’s totally wrong to even think there wasn’t supervision. There was a proper staff-student ratio, they were on a hiking trip, and we’ll follow up with the details.”

Hessian Lake is roughly 32 acres and about 25 feet deep in most places. It’s a popular paddling spot, but swimming is not allowed there. A parks department spokesman said there are also no lifeguards.

Pierre’s death remained under investigation.

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