Boy, 14, drowns in Tacony Creek

Posted: June 21, 2007

As the days grow hotter, the creeks and swimming holes of the city beckon teenage boys with an appetite for risk and adventure. And just as regularly, one of those boys drowns.

It happened again yesterday to a 14-year-old boy who jumped off a bridge into the Tacony Creek in Juniata Park shortly before 3 p.m.

After sinking into the water, the boy, whose name was not released, thrashed to the surface and shouted to his friends: "I can't swim!"

A companion dove in after him, police said, but the would-be rescuer had to release him because he was getting pulled under himself.

It took divers from the Marine Unit about 15 minutes to recover the body. The boy was pronounced dead at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children at 4:10 p.m.

The site of the drowning is a popular swimming spot for youths. The stone graffiti-covered bridge is in a shady glen and bears Fisher's Lane over the creek to a driving range adjacent to the Juniata Park Golf Club. But the pastoral setting is deceiving. In recent times, the creek has claimed the lives of at least two other boys: Hassan Bowman, 13, in May 2002, and Lorenzo "Reny" Ramshaw, 9, in August 2004.

A sign posted on a tree declares: "No Swimming and No Loitering on Bridge" but that is scant deterrent on a hot day.

Several teens who had biked to the scene late yesterday afternoon said the spot, known simply as "The Bridge," is a well-known hangout that can attract crowds numbering in the dozens.

"Kids from all different neighborhoods, all races, boys, girls, adults even . . .," said Richard Dabney, 13, of Feltonville.

The water under the bridge yesterday was placid and murky. A discarded soda bottle floated by a submerged shopping cart and tire, and the creek did not look like an appetizing place for a dip. But several boys said it was better than a municipal pool.

Steven Salas, 13, of Feltonville, said the city pool was "boring." "Here, you can jump off the bridge and do tricks," he said.

The police will sometimes shoo them away after a drowning incident, the boys said, but generally the authorities leave them alone. The group that gathers there regularly is largely self-policing, the boys said.

The older kids keep the young ones in check, said Jorge Espaillat, 17, of Kensington.


Contact staff writer Art Carey at acarey@phillynews.com or 610-701-7623.

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