Recovered body may be Pennypack drowning victim

Search­ing for Se­bas­tien: Of­ficers from the po­lice Mar­ine Unit look in the Delaware River for the body of a sus­pec­ted drown­ing vic­tim last Thursday. WIL­LI­AM KENNY / TIMES PHOTO

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. •• 

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