Union Ship Canal Teen Drowning Victims Identified

11:26 PM, Jul 5, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Teens Die After Being Pulled From Water

Video: Full Interivew: Buffalo Fire Commissioner

  • Joseph Matte,right,grieves at the canal where his daughter,16, drown with her boyfriend
  • Dondre Herring and Alexis Matte; photo courtesy: Facebook
  • Alexis Matte; photo courtesy: Facebook

BUFFALO, NY - Authorites have released the identities of a teenage couple, who drown together while swimming in the Union Ship Canal Thursday night.

Alexis Matte, 16 of Buffalo and Dondre Herring, 17 of Lackawanna both died at area hospitals.

The two were unconscious when pulled form the water. The Hamburg Water Rescue Team and other emergency crews were trying to revive the two on scene. 

"Four firefighters we put in with rescue suits went in the water, started to search and then shortly thereafter, the Hamburg boat with the Buffalo divers on it arrived," said Battalion Chief Mike Swanekamp of the Buffalo Fire Department.

Police say that the two were dating.

There are signs at the canal that say swimming is not allowed. Lackwanna Police say it's believed the two jumped from the bridge and into the water.

The emergency was called in by a third swimmer, who was a friend of the two victims.

The Union Ship Canal is near the border of the city of Buffalo and the city of Lackawanna, right off Lake Erie.

For practically as long as it's been there, people have been going for dips in the canal on hot days. And in recent years improvements, such as the creation of a park around it, have made it more accessible, and perhaps even more alluring.

The canal is easy enough to get into, and the water looks calm.

However it can be deceptively dangerous for swimmers, particulary because it could be very difficult for someone to get back out of the water.

There are relatively few protrusions along its sheer, 10 foot walls for someone to even cling to, should they begin to tire or otherwise find themselves in trouble.

"No matter how much signage you put up, or fences or whatever, we can't monitor the place 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, who added that this most recent incident is a tragic reminder of the dangers of unauthorized swimming.

"If you want to enter the water, you're going to have an opportunity to do that. We just pray that you will use good judgement and not do that," Whitfield said.

Police tell 2 on Your Side that the victims were found deep under murky water and had been under the water for about 28 minutes.

"It seemed like we hit the muck at say 18 feet, then the ladder sunk down another probably eight feet into the silt," said Swanekamp.



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