ComJour333 From the Lead to the Structure

4. Four boys age 7 to 11 drowned when a group of seven boys plunged through thin ice.

1. As seven boys finished their snack run from the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club to Hanson’s Market yesterday afternoon, a sudden urge to slide around prompted 11-year-old William Rodriguez to dash for the serene expanse of river ice.

15. “Willie said he wanted to go down to the river, to slide on the Ice,” Ivan said. “We tried to stop him.”

9. It was a playful impulse that ended with his plunge through the ice, setting off an ill-fated rescue attempt that deteriorated into a mass of desperate children clinging to each other in 35-degree water.

10. The catastrophe left four boys dead, their families crushed and rescue workers shaken following an afternoon of fighting a river of broken ice, the steep mud-covered bank and driving rain.

11. Dead are William Rodriguez, 11, of 292 Howard St.; Christopher Casado, 7, of 18 Jasper Court; Mackendy Constant, 8, of 7 Clinton St.; and Victor Baez, 9, 46 Bernard Ave.

3. Police said the four dead boys were trapped under the ice at least 10 minutes.

8. It was the worst local Merrimack River tragedy in nearly a century.

14. “I threw the rope out once and it landed too far away, so I threw it out again, and again it was too far for them to reach,” said Jacques Fournier, a retired maintenance worker who tried to rescue the boys.

5. Lawrence and Andover firefighters equipped with ice rescue suits arrived and after a search of the area where the boys went in, found the four remaining boys under the ice, 25 feet from shore in 15-20 feet of water.

6. Because of the steep embankment, rescuers were forced to use ladders to bring the children up off the river to the waiting ambulances.

12. Surviving the incident were Francis Spraus, 9, 14 School St.; Christopher’s brother Ivan Casado, 9, 18 Jasper Court; Jaycob Morales, 10, 4 Winslow Place.

13. Ivan and Francis were released from the hospital last night, and recalled the story from its quiet start.

7. Members of the state police, Lawrence Police and Merrimack Valley dive teams entered the 38-degree water and conducted an area search to be sure no one was left behind.

2. The ice was one to two inches thick where they ventured off the river bank. Four inches is considered the minimum to support more than one person, and river ice may not be safe even at that thickness because of currents and other factors.

18. “My legs started to get stiff, and I had a freezing headache,” Francis said. “I was hanging on to Christopher, but he started to slip under. I tried holding on to his hand, but it was like he let go.”


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