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Massena teen drowns in Grasse River


MASSENA — A 17-year-old Massena boy drowned 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 boy’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 D. 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 it recovered the victim by the shoreline.

When rescue squad members started resuscitation efforts, they were uncertain 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.

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,” Aliciamarie Harvey posted. “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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