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Community Calling For Action At Bronx Park After Drowning Deaths Of Teen Cousins

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Community advocates and others were calling for action Monday after a second teen pulled from the Bronx River last week died over the weekend.

As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, the family of 13-year-old Wellington Gavin and 13-year-old Erikson Villa appeared at a news conference Monday afternoon with state Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-The Bronx) to highlight safety concerns at Starlight Park in the West Farms section of the borough.

At the news conference, Gavin’s inconsolable mother was unable to control the flood of tears, or even speak.

Community Calling For Action At Bronx Park After Drowning Deaths Of Teen Cousins

bronx river rescue 0620 Community Calling For Action At Bronx Park After Drowning Deaths Of Teen Cousins
Monica Miller reports

Gavin and Villa were both pulled from the river after finding themselves submerged this past Friday.

Villa’s mother, Eve Villa, joined other family members to channel their heartbreak into a call for action.

“Please put the fence up, the gates up,” Eve Villa said.

Bronx Drown

Elected officials and the families of Wellington Gavin and Erikson Villa call for fencing around the water at Starlight Park in the Bronx. (Credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Elected officials and the families of Wellington Gavin and Erikson Villa call for fencing around the water at Starlight Park in the Bronx. (Credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Family members demanded that a fence be installed along the steep, rocky banks of the Bronx River.

Starlight Park currently offers unrestricted views and access, and even has two boat launches for canoes and kayaks. But swimming there is prohibited.

A dam that runs between the two docks is not visible at high tide, and creates a strong current.

“It’s really unsafe, you know, because if anyone fell there, there’s no way to help you,” said parkgoer Ed Sepulveda.

Starlight Park is run by the city’s Parks Department. But for fences to be approved there, the New York State Division of Environmental Control would need to sign off on the plan.

“We have to go to the governor’s office and claim to him that he has to develop a committee to review this case, and review the problem in this park,” said state Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo (D-The Bronx.)

“Even though the gate is not going to give my son back, but at least it will stop another parent from losing another child,” Eva Villa said in Spanish.

Two other people died in the same place in 2010, WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reported.

Family members have also asked that the park be shut down until protective fences are installed.

Witnesses said the two teens were part of a larger group of children who decided to go into the river Friday when Villa went under the water.

The Rev. Joel Bauza, a family spokesman, said Gavin then jumped in to save his cousin.

“It was an act of heroism,” he said.

Divers pulled the two teens out of the water about an hour apart after receiving a report of two missing swimmers. Both boys were unconscious and unresponsive.

They were rushed to nearby hospitals, where Villa was pronounced dead Friday.

For two days, Gavin’s family held onto hope that his condition would improve. But just as they were making the painful decision to disconnect his life support equipment, the teen died Sunday afternoon.

Funerals for the teens are set for this coming Friday, and family members said the two boys will be buried in the Dominican Republic.

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