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Teen Who Drowned Off Rockaway Beach Was Talented Guitarist, Classmates Say

By Katie Honan | May 26, 2016 3:07pm
 NYPD and FDNY divers searched the Atlantic Ocean for more than an hour before rescuing Rupra Gurung, 18.
NYPD and FDNY divers searched the Atlantic Ocean for more than an hour before rescuing Rupra Gurung, 18.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ELMHURST -- The teen who drowned after skipping school to visit Rockaway Beach Wednesday was remembered by classmates as a talented guitar player and skateboarder.

Rupra Gurung, 18, and two other friends cut out of Newtown High School on Wednesday and traveled to Beach 67th Street in Arverne to enjoy the warm weather, friends said. 

He went out into the ocean near the jetty at around 2:30 p.m. but got swept out.

"At the beginning he said that he did know how to swim," friend and classmate Matthew Hernandez, 17, said on the beach after his friend was pulled out.  

"He was swimming all right then he just started drifting."

Gurung was found by NYPD and FDNY divers and officials after being in the ocean for more than an hour and was pronounced dead at St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway.

Beaches don't officially open across the city until Saturday and no lifeguards were present when he went into the water. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke about the tragedy at an unrelated press conference Thursday, reminding swimmers to stay out of the water when lifeguards aren't around.

"Swimming when there are not lifeguards is very dangerous," he said. 

Extra school safety officers were outside Gurung's Elmhurst high school Thursday morning, and the school had grief counselors on hand to help students.

"It's a sad day," said a teacher outside the school who declined to give her name.

Gurung and his friends had evaded earlier sweeps from the NYPD who were pulling over city buses headed to the beach, picking up students and taking them back to school.

Attendance at the large high school was 78.61 percent — ten points below the high school's usual rate of 86 percent, Department of Education data shows.

"He was low key," Versace Thompson, 18, said of Gurung outside Newtown High School. "He was quiet."

Thompson remembered him as a talented guitarist who excelled in the school's popular music class, and he often played in other classes because of his talent.

"He was good," Thompson said.

Sharar Rasha, 19, recently met Gurung through another friend and classmate at Newtown and said he was a very welcoming person who loved music and skateboarding.

"He was cool, showing me love," the Hunter College student said.