EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack River tragedy: Five years later

December 14, 2007

Survivor bravely goes on with his life never forgetting little Christopher

LAWRENCE, Mass. — All three of the boys who survived the tragedy on the Merrimack River five years ago lost friends.

Ivan Casado also lost a brother.

Seven-year-old Christopher Casado, Ivan and four of their friends made a human chain across the river’s thin ice to try to save 11-year-old William Rodriguez, who had ventured out to play. The boys’ weight forced the ice to shatter, dropping the little heroes into 38-degree water with William.

Christopher, the youngest in the group, died in the river. On Christopher’s headstone at St. Mary Immaculate-Conception Cemetery in Lawrence is his picture and the word “COURAGE.”

It was courage that Ivan displayed on Dec. 14, 2002. He was 9 at the time and managed to escape the river’s icy clutches and run for help. His actions led to the rescue of two of his friends — Jaycob Morales and Francis Spraus — who were still above water when help arrived.

Firefighters found Christopher, William, Mackendy Constant and Victor Baez under the ice.

Five years later, Ivan lives like most adolescent boys. He is 14 and will turn 15 on Jan. 29. He has a girlfriend. He sports baggy clothes and an earring in his left ear. He still has a shaved head like he had when he was younger.

Since the accident, Ivan has “gotten more mature,” he said.

“I’ve gotten older, I guess,” he said.

Life without Christopher

Ivan likes to spend time at the Boys and Girls Club on Water Street, where he plays on the eighth-grade basketball team. The Boys and Girls Club is within walking distance of the Casado’s Jasper Street home. Hundreds of kids flock to the facility every day. Ivan, Christopher and the other five boys spent the afternoon there before their lives took that tragic turn five years ago.

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