EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack River tragedy: Five years later

December 14, 2007

The community reacts


Some of the students say they still remember what happened. To others, the boys who died were classmates or friends, or brothers of friends, someone they have heard about, but didn't really know.

Javier Fantauzzi, 18, is one who thinks about the boys every day when he comes to the club. He knew two of the boys, William Rodriguez and Mackendy Constant, and their older brothers.

"I feel like it could have happened to anybody," said the Lawrence High School senior. "They were just kids playing."

He said the drownings happened for a reason, that other kids have learned from the experience. Kids are now told often through many programs not to go out on the ice, he said.

The Boys and Girls Club started an annual water safety program that brings in Lawrence firefighters and rescue workers to talk about river safety and what to do when a friend is drowning.

"When is it safe to go out on the ice?" Capt. James Loffredo asked the hundreds of kids packed in the club's gym last week.

"Never!" they yelled back.

Loffredo said even if the ice seems thick enough to walk on, it isn't safe.

"Ice isn't what you think it is," he said. "It never is."

The rescue workers showed the hooks, poles and ropes they use to help people who have fallen into the ice. Loffredo talked about marking where a friend goes into the ice, then running to get help.

Executive Director Markus Fischer said the water safety program is important to have every year, to remind the kids and to teach the new ones. As for the staff, he said almost everyone still works there and knew the four kids who drowned.

"We think about it all the time," said Fischer. "It is always with us, even now with a new generation of kids."

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