City to Unveil New Safety Measures at Boat Launches in Wake Of Boys' Deaths

By Eddie Small on August 21, 2014 6:36pm 

 Eva Villa and Robinson Villa (left) look over the water where their son, Erickson Villa, drowned.
Eva Villa and Robinson Villa (left) look over the water where their son, Erickson Villa, drowned.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

HUNTS POINT — The city is set to announce new safety measures at its boat launches Friday in the wake of the deaths of two 13-year-old cousins who drowned in the Bronx River near Starlight Park in June.

The new features at city boat launches leading directly into deep water include self-closing gates, life rings and throw lines, stenciled messages on docks that read "No Swimming/No Diving" and signs on the gates in English and Spanish that warn of the danger the bodies of water pose, officials said.

Within the next two to three weeks, solar-powered emergency call boxes will also be installed near launch entrances.

The safety upgrades come two months after the tragic deaths of cousins Erickson Villa and Wellington Gavin, both 13.

Their families had called for gates at city boat launches immediately after the boys' deaths, and Friday's announcement is meant "to let the public know that we listened to the concerns of the community," Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson said in an email.

The Parks Enforcement Patrol will inspect the safety features weekly and maintenance vehicles that operate near launches will be equipped to carry extra life rings and throw lines, according to the Parks Department.

Boat launches in Starlight Park and Hunts Point Riverside Park in The Bronx, Muscota Marsh, West Harlem Piers Park and Riverside Park 72nd Street in Manhattan, Manhattan Avenue and the 69th Street Pier Eco Dock in Brooklyn, and World's Fair Marina in Queens will all be outfitted with the new gear.

The boys jumped in the Bronx River near 172nd Street about 3 p.m. on Friday, June 20. Erickson struggled soon after jumping in and Wellington went in to try to save him, according to the family's spokesman the Rev. Joel Bauza.

Paramedics pulled the boys from the water, but both were unconscious. Erickson was pronounced dead that evening and Wellington died two days later. 

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