A 13-year-old boy drowned today after trying to retrieve a ball from the Merrimack River in Lawrence and disappearing when he was caught in a strong current, authorities said.
Joshua Figueroa, of Lawrence, was pulled from the water after being submerged for more than 45 minutes, said Lawrence Police Chief John Romero.
Figueroa had been playing a game with a group of friends, near a public boat ramp off Rowe Street, where they were throwing a ball into the water and then swimming out to get it, Romero said. The boy got into trouble around 4:15 p.m. when he went out too far to collect a ball and got caught up in the current, authorities said.
He was last seen by one of his friends slipping beneath the surface, Lawrence Deputy Fire Chief Jack Bergeron said.
After friends notified police, the Fire Department responded and began a search for Figueroa using a rescue boat and immersion suits, until the State Police Underwater Recovery unit arrived and dispatched a diver, the authorities said.
State Police spokesman Trooper Thomas Murphy said the diver located the youth almost immediately.
‘‘The diver conducted what’s called a line search, and located the boy in less than a minute,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘He was found on the diver’s first pass.’’
Bergeron said emergency medical personnel took Figueroa to Lawrence General Hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital just after 7 p.m., Romero said.
Authorities said Figueroa had been underwater for more than 45 minutes.
Romero said the water was 52 degrees and signs are posted that no swimming is allowed in the Merrimack in Lawrence.
According to Bergeron, the Fire Department works with the Lawrence Boys Club to advise youths not to enter the river. He also said the department has installed alarm boxes with life preservers along the banks of the river, but said they were not utilized in this instance.
‘‘We’ve had some very serious incidents over the years and we discourage anybody from entering the river,’’ Bergeron said. ‘‘At times the current can be very swift. It is not a safe place to swim.’’
Bergeron said Figueroa's family had been notified.
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