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Massena boy drowns in Grasse River


MASSENA — A 17-year-old Massena boy is dead after drowning Tuesday night in the Grasse River.

Several agencies, including the Massena Rescue Squad’s dive team, were dispatched to a “water rescue situation” shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Grasse River area behind Calvary Cemetery, where Donald Bemis drowned.

Van W. Alexander, a guidance counselor at the Massena Central School District’s Delta School of Choice, where the teen was a student, met with the Mr. Bemis’s mother Wednesday morning.

According to Mr. Alexander, Mr. Bemis had been swimming in the Grasse River behind the cemetery with three other friends. The boys attempted to rescue him but were unable to do so. Names of the three boys were not given.

Massena Rescue Squad President Eric Duchscherer said bystanders on the shore of the river said they had an additional person with their group who went missing in the water.

“It was at that point that we activated our dive team and put our Zodiac boat in the water,” Mr. Duchscherer said.

The team had been in the water for nearly a half hour when they recovered the victim by the shoreline.

When rescue squad members started resuscitation efforts, they were uncertain as to how long the teen had been in the cold water. The resuscitation efforts continued while he was taken to Massena Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Mr. Duchscherer said the group of teens was swimming from the south side of the Grasse River, possibly by the Massena Fire Department, toward the cemetery, where the youth was found, unconscious.

Multiple posts mourning Mr. Bemis on a Facebook page for Delta School of Choice called “Save Delta” started appearing at 10:32 p.m. Tuesday.

“Today. Delta school of choice lost an amazing person,” posted Aliciamarie Harvey. “He was the kindest soul anyone would meet. I’m gonna miss walking by him in school and saying sup Donald and him smiling at me.

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