NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A 13-year-old boy remained in critical condition Saturday evening after being pulled from the Bronx River Friday afternoon along with his cousin, who later died.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, divers frantically searched the murky water of the Bronx River before emergency crews were able to pluck Wellington Gavin and his cousin Erikson Villa out of the water and rush them to waiting ambulances.
Villa was pronounced dead at St. Barnabas Hospital. Wellington was transferred to Montefiore Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition.
“They decided to go in the lake, let’s go swimming, let’s go play in the water,” Diamonique Mims said.
The afternoon of fun at Starlight Park in the West Farms section of the Bronx, quickly took a tragic turn.
“They decided on a hot day to play outside. Excited because school is over and part of a dare between kids to jump in the water and unfortunately one of the two kids that jumped in, one of them couldn’t swim that well,” said Rev. Joel Buaza, with Bridges Community Church.
The two jumped in the water at around 3 p.m. and never came back to the surface. It took minutes for divers to find Wellington, but they weren’t able to locate Villa for more than an hour.
“No visibility down there, very hard to see anything,” Deputy Chief, Anthony Monte said.
Witnesses said the two boys were not strong swimmers.
By the deceptively calm waters of the Bronx River, candles were left in memory of Villa, CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported.
“You can’t even comprehend it, instead of coming home they went to the river,” said Carmen Padilla, who was Villa’s teacher.
There are ‘no swimming’ signs posted along the water at the park, but the small print may be no match for the inviting docks.
Just around the same time that the boys took their tragic swim, Rev. Buaza said he was at a meeting to discuss putting up a protective fence around the area, Langford reported.
“I couldn’t believe what I just finished hearing the fact that I just came out of a meeting talking about that. And that while I was sitting there, this was happening in the park,” said Bauza.
Bauza said he met with City Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo and others in her office Friday as part of an ongoing effort to secure Starlight Park from just such a tragedy.
“The concerns have been there for a while and the concern was that one of the kids could get hurt, drown, or something could happen and that’s exactly what happened,” Bauza said.
As one young teen’s family prepares for his funeral, another family is praying for their child’s recovery.
Villa’s parents are said to be determined to prevent any more heartbreak at the park.
“The family does want and they have instructed me to say that they do want a fence up now,” said Bauza.
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