FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A death investigation is underway, after the body of a 15-year-old who went missing after he went swimming was located in a Fort Lauderdale lake.
According to investigators, the boy’s body was found around 2 a.m., Thursday. The father of the victim has confirmed he is 15-year-old Fritznel Pierre.
Thursday afternoon, Pierre’s friends and family gathered by the lake to pay their respects to their friend whose life was cut too short.
“I’m not happy right now because he was my life,” said his father Fritz Pierre in tears. “I don’t got no family right now, only my son.”
Parents of Pierre’s friends also gathered to mourn the sudden loss of the boy they witnessed grow up.
“My son called me last night, he was at the lake swimming with friends,” said a woman whose son was at the lake that evening. “I just came to thank God, that, you know, that I’m sorry for the family. I lost my other son five months ago, so this could’ve been my son and I just couldn’t take this pain anymore.”
Neighbors told 7News that teenagers often come to the lake unsupervised, especially in the summer months. “It would bother me if I was a parent,” said a nearby resident. “I always thought it was a concern because the lake is really deep.”
“He was an amazing guy,” said Jerry Earzo, a friend in shock. “He was honestly, he was so kind to everyone. If someone was drowning, and like he would drown to save someone else. He was that type of person.”
Police and rescue crews responded to the scene around 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, just off Northeast 16th Street and U.S. 1. Investigators said the teen was swimming with a group of friends, when they noticed he was having trouble in the water and went under. The other swimmers then called 911.
“We all got tired,” said Earzo. “We were on the paddle board, and we dropped it off to come back and there was two other people who were with the, I guess victim.”
A fire boat and six divers were out in the water, but officials said they had visibility issues. “The visibility right now in the lake is about two inches,” said Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Timothy Heiser. “They cannot see, not only because it’s dark, but even with the flashlight, there’s so much silt that the light, when it’s on, just makes it look like fog, so they’re trying to search by hand right now.”
Officials said access was also an issue because the lake is long and rectangular in shape, very shallow along the shore with a very steep drop. They also had trouble with their communication equipment.
One of the teens’ mothers shot cellphone video of the rescue effort. “A wonderful, wonderful life was taken. A very good boy, he’s been in my house, I’ve known him forever,” said Jackie Papic, who’s son was the victim’s best friend. “All these children grew up together. Tragedies happen. We need to all come together, love our children. know where our children are every moment of the day.”
Devastated friends of the victim said they were simply enjoying a summer night on the water. However, witnesses told 7News the teen was not a strong swimmer.
“He was funny, like he always had a great attitude,” said another friend of the victim. “Whenever he was sad, he wouldn’t even show it.”
Fire rescue personnel shut down Northeast 16th Street while the search and rescue mission was underway. The street has since reopened.
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