A body recovered by police from the Delaware River last weekend may be that of a Wissinoming teenager who disappeared while wading in the storm-surging Pennypack Creek on Aug. 13.
The city’s medical examiner had yet to confirm the identity of the corpse on Tuesday, although the death has been ruled an accidental drowning, according to Jim Garrow, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health.
Officers from the Philadelphia police Marine Unit pulled the remains of the drowning victim from the Delaware near Princeton Avenue at about 8 a.m. on Saturday, said Capt. Frank Bachmayer of Northeast Detectives. That’s about 1.5 miles south of the mouth of the Pennypack Creek.
Sebastien Sanon, 15, was last seen in the Pennypack shortly before 5 p.m. on Aug. 13 near a railroad trestle about a quarter-mile upstream from Frankford Avenue, police said last week. Sanon, who lived with his mother near Devereaux Street and Harbison Avenue, had ridden his bicycle into Pennypack Park with three friends that afternoon after a heavy rainstorm. Sanon reportedly was wading in the creek when the storm current swept him downstream, where he struck his head on an abutment and sank below the water surface.
Members of the police department’s Marine and Mounted units scoured the creek, the park and the Delaware for Sanon daily until a police power boat crew found the unidentified drowning victim in the river on Saturday morning.
Sanon’s relatives and friends formed their own search party, too. On Thursday morning, a woman identifying herself as the victim’s cousin reflected on the tragedy while overlooking the creek from Frankford Avenue. The woman, who lives in New York and asked not to be identified by name, said that Sanon was a kind but naive boy and that his mother and sister were overcome by grief.
Relatives gathered at the railroad trestle Thursday morning, with some openly praying for the boy’s well-being, according to a park-user who witnessed the tearful vigil. Police hurried into the park after receiving word that someone else had strayed into the water, according to the witness. The officers spoke with the missing boy’s relatives and ensured that all were safe and accounted for.
On Friday morning, a cadaver dog owned by a private citizen “hit” on a scent in the creek at the Frankford Avenue bridge. Police, suspecting that the missing youth was pinned below a pile of downed tree trunks, limbs and branches, used a chainsaw and winch to clear the debris, but did not find a body.
Sanon would be the second teenage drowning victim in the Pennypack Creek this summer. Brandon Boyle, 13, of Bell’s Corner, disappeared on July 1 while swimming in a different part of the creek after heavy storms. Searchers found his body downstream three days later.
As a result of that death, public officials led by City Councilman Brian O’Neill have proposed the reconfiguration of a four-foot dam in the creek just west of Roosevelt Boulevard. The work would reduce the water depth at a notorious swimming spot in the creek and allow fish to swim farther upstream for spawning. ••