Could fences help to prevent more deaths in the Bronx River? After the death of two boys in the river this week, parents and advocates are calling for a fence to be placed around the river’s edge in order to discourage and prevent children from getting into or near the water.
Erickson Villa and Wellington Gavin, two 13-year-old cousins living in the Bronx, knew how to swim when they approached the river this Friday afternoon. The Bronx River is a popular spot for people to canoe and kayak; however, multiple signs indicate that swimming is not allowed.
A concrete dam is one obvious danger the river presents — at the time the boys were swimming, it would have been submerged. Silt, mud, underwater currents, and a surprisingly quick drop-off are additional potential dangers for swimmers that can prove difficult and disorienting to deal with.
The boys had gone with a group of six friends to the launching docks. Friends of the boys at the boat dock saw the boys jump into the river — both immediately struggled, and did not surface. Wellington was pulled out by police divers within a few minutes of going under, and did not die until later on Sunday. Divers didn’t recover Erickson’s body for over an hour, and he died later that day.
“We’re asking the park be closed, off limits until that fence gets put up for the safety of the other children,” says Robinson Villa, Erickson’s father. The family hopes to prevent future deadly accidents from occurring. The Bronx River is no stranger to tragedy — in 2010, two other teens died in the river.
“The families do not want this tragedy to happen to anyone else,” said State Senator Rubin Diaz, in support of the call for river fencing.