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Missing College Student Anthony Urena Died of Accidental Drowning: NYPD

By Carolina Pichardo | January 11, 2016 6:19pm
 It was standing room only at the wake for Anthony Ureña, the 23-year-old college student who went missing on Nov. 14 after leaving an Inwood nightclub. 
Saying Farewell to Anthony Urena
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The college student whose body was found by the Hudson River last month died of an accidental drowning after falling into the Harlem River in Inwood, the NYPD said. 

Anthony Ureña, 23, fell into the river at 203rd Street and Ninth Avenue at some point after he was last seen leaving a local nightclub on Nov. 14, police said.

Investigators believe the Lehman College student's body then drifted to the New Jersey side of the Hudson River before being recovered by the Hoboken Police Department on Christmas Day.

The final results of Ureña's autopsy are still pending, though the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office previously said his body had “no visible signs of trauma related to foul play.” 

Relatives said they were told by a NYPD detective that he went into the water farther south at Sherman Creek, but a police spokesman gave the location as 203rd Street and Ninth Avenue. He added that police don't believe the death was the result of homicide or suicide. 

However, the explanation didn't sit well with some members of Ureña's family.

His uncle, Ray Serrano, said the theory doesn't make sense to him, because he visited the spot where police said Ureña fell in and said the water was less than knee-deep. 

“There are so many more questions than answers,” added family friend Julia Reyes, who cared for Ureña when he was younger, at a memorial service for him on Sunday. "I'm puzzled by the police report.”

More than 100 of Ureña's friends and family also said their final farewells at the memorial, held at the R. G. Ortiz Funeral Home at 4425 Broadway, praying and sharing memories of the Douglass Houses resident in front of his closed, white casket flanked with large flower arrangements and wreaths.

The family celebrated his life with a slideshow of images, featuring him as a toddler, hugging his mother at the beach and sharing candid moments with his siblings, Chris, Michael and Ashley. Friends also stood at the podium to share joyful stories about Ureña, while his mother, Judith Lopez, greeted guests that traveled from as far as the Dominican Republic, the family said.

Lopez pinned each guest with a black or red ribbon — her son's favorite colors — bearing the image of Saint Anthony. 

The Rev. Robert Peralta, who mentored Ureña when he was a teen at the Police Athletic League in the 168th St. Armory, said he was devastated upon hearing the news of his death.

“I saw him as a kid,” Peralta said, “and then as a young man walking with a backpack to college.”

Lopez took to Facebook Sunday night after the service to thank family and friends for showing their support.

"Everyone is complimenting me for being a strong woman," she wrote. "But let me tell you, if it wasn't because ALL of you, I wouldn't be this strong."