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Boy, 13, drowns chasing ball in Lawrence

By Stewart Bishop
Globe Correspondent / May 28, 2010

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A teenage boy drowned yesterday 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, 13, of Lawrence, was pulled from the water after being submerged for more than 45 minutes, said 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 and got caught 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. Trooper Thomas Murphy, a State Police spokesman, 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.

Emergency medical personnel took Figueroa to Lawrence General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead just after 7 p.m., Romero said.

Romero said signs are posted that no swimming is allowed in the Merrimack in Lawrence.

Bergeron said the Fire Department works with the Lawrence Boys Club to advise youths not to enter the river. He said the department has installed alarm boxes with life preservers along the banks of the river, but they were not utilized in this instance.

Bergeron said the boy’s family has been notified.

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