PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The 16-year-old boy who drowned while on a trip to Bear Mountain with his Brooklyn school was a smart, fun-loving kid who took care of his younger sister, classmates said Tuesday.
Jean Fritz Pierre, a student at the International High School at Prospect Heights, died while swimming in Hessian Lake about 3 p.m. Monday, officials said.
He had been hiking with classmates when he and a few pals separated from the group and went to swim, the DOE and sources said.
“I saw him in the morning," said friend Jessica Joseph, 15, who was on the trip.
"We were talking, laughing, having fun. He was so friendly.”
Another of Pierre’s heartbroken friends said he was a dedicated student and athlete who took care of his 5-year-old sister.
“He was best in science and he loved basketball,” Mary Jules, 15, said, fighting back tears.
The DOE said 48 students were on the freshman class trip, accompanied by five chaperones, four teachers and a parent coordinator. All the kids had permission slips from parents.
City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott visited the school Tuesday morning and defended the level of supervision on the trip, calling the drowning a tragedy.
"Let me be clear to all of you. It was the appropriate ratio [of staff to students], and we had a tragedy happen," Walcott said.
The chancellor said he spoke to Pierre's grieving dad Monday night.
"It's a really tough situation for him," Walcott said later Tuesday after speaking at a school graduation in Staten Island. "They lost one of their children. And we lost one of our students. It's a tough time for them."
International High School was also holding graduation ceremonies on Tuesday. Grief counselors would be at the school throughout the week, Walcott said.
Hessian Lake, on the border of Rockland and Orange counties in upstate New York, had no lifeguards and swimming there is prohibited, according to the Journal News.
The New York State Park Police and the Rockland County Medical Examiner's Office were conducting an investigation into the drowning, officials said.
The medical examiner's office said Tuesday that it had ruled his drowning accidental, noting an autopsy showed Pierre had no significant medical conditions and suffered no bodily injuries to cause the drowning. It added that toxicology tests for drugs and alcohol would not be completed for several weeks.