THE BRONX — Relatives of the two 13-year-old cousins who drowned in the Bronx River earlier this month will escort the teens to the Dominican Republic for their burial this week — thanks to more than $14,000 in donations raised by the community.
Nine relatives of Wellington Gavin and Erikson Villa, including the teens' parents, siblings and extended family, will accompany the boys' bodies on a series of JetBlue flights to the Dominican Republic Tuesday morning, according to the family’s spokesman, Rev. Joel Bauza.
The boys will be laid to rest on Wednesday at a cemetery in San Francisco de Macoris alongside other family members, relatives said.
Funds for the transportation and burial came from more than 100 private donors — some of whom donated as little as $1 — as well as the Acacia Network, a Bronx-based social services agency that picked up the $8,000 funeral costs, Bauza said.
The cousins, who knew how to swim, drowned after jumping into the river to cool off at Starlight Park on June 20 after their school let out.
Since then, their family has demanded additional security measures at the park in hopes of preventing any future incidents.
"Please put the gate up around the river or close the park," Erikson's mother, Eva Villa, said during a press conference in the park on June 23. "Look at me. I'm empty. I'm empty."
Family members and friends gathered for a memorial service in The Bronx on Friday.
“They were cool friends, they had me laughing all the time,” Yasique Jordan, 15, said outside of the Bridges Community Church on East 174th Street during the service.
“It feels hard because they were two close friends.”