EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 8, 2012

Learning from loss: the Merrimack River tragedy 10 years later

10 years later, tragedy still a teaching tool for river's dangers


Loffredo said the shows are being presented to children who might not know about the drowning, but he is hopeful the message is still getting through to them.

”I think they are listening and hopefully it makes a impact right away. You never know the one we’ve saved because of our presentations,” he said.

In addition to the swimming lessons and water safety programs, the drownings prompted others to prevent the tragedy from happening again. A year after the drownings, then Andover High swim star Tracy O’Malley applied for a grant to revive the swim team at the Boys and Girls Club. It’s still thriving today.

The pain lingers

Ysabel (Morales) Ortiz says her son Jaycob does not like to speak about that day 10 years ago when he and his friends went out onto the ice.

”He’s still hurting,” Ortiz said. “It’s like the first day.”

Two years ago, Jaycob got a tattoo of a Rosary with the names of the victims. Jaycob also made a scrapbook of all the news stories on the tragedy and even wrote an essay about it for school. Before enrolling at Wheaton, Jaycob and his mother would go to the cemetery, where he would pray and cry.

She said Morales has been focusing on his studies and sports. He was an Eagle-Tribune All-Star in basketball and football at Central Catholic High School and is now averaging 9.5 points a game, second most on the team, for the Wheaton College basketball team.

While her son survived the tragedy a decade ago, Ortiz is now hurting over the sudden death of her older son, Eudy Villaman, 31 of Londonderry, N.H., who passed away Oct. 31, 2011.

”I felt horrible for the boys’ mothers before, but know I now how hard it was for them to have lost their children,” Ortiz said.

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