A Castor Gardens teenager who has been missing since July 14 may have been found dead in the Pennypack Creek.
Philadelphia police did not release the identity of a male whose body was pulled from the creek near Rhawn Street and Lexington Avenue on Sunday. According to published reports, firefighters recovered the corpse shortly after noon. The victim was taken to the medical examiner for an autopsy to determine the cause, manner and estimated time of death.
Steven Salazar, 15, of the 2100 block of Magee Ave. was reported missing from his home on July 14 at about 6:05 p.m. A July 16 news release from the police department indicated that Salazar “suffers from mental illness” and has been known to frequent Pennypack Park in the area of 2700 Axe Factory Road. The body was recovered less than one mile downstream from that location.
On Saturday, someone posted a profile photo to Salazar’s Facebook page that included his description under the heading “MISSING.” Late Sunday afternoon, someone replaced the image with a similar photo of Salazar without the text. Published news reports stated that relatives identified the remains as those of Salazar.
Salazar would be the third teenage boy to have died in the Pennypack Creek since last summer, when Brandon Boyle, 13, and Sebastian Sanon, 15, each drowned while swimming in the creek following heavy rainstorms.
As a result of last year’s deaths, Elsie Stevens, president of the Holme Circle Civic Association, developed a program in collaboration with city officials and the mother of a drowning victim to educate area school students about the dangers of the creek. Organizers presented the program to assemblies at Robert Pollock Elementary, St. Jerome’s and Father Judge earlier this year. Prior to the latest creek death, Stevens was planning to establish a memorial to drowning victims in the form of a park bench with their names engraved on it. The bench would be positioned near the creek just west of Roosevelt Boulevard where Boyle had been swimming before his death.
Youths traditionally have used a footbridge there as a diving platform for jumping into a deep pool of creekwater formed by an obsolete dam just downstream. Elsewhere in the creek, the water is too shallow for diving. In the aftermath of Boyle’s death, city officials including Councilman Brian O’Neill began to examine ways that the dam might be removed, which would effectively eliminate the swimming hole.
In recent weeks, evidence suggests that swimmers continue to use the bridge as a diving platform. As in past years, vandals have cut a large gap in the bridge’s wooden side railing to facilitate jumps. The same railing had been similarly vandalized prior to Boyle’s death, then repaired afterward. It had become an unofficial memorial to the youth, with sympathetic messages carved into the horizontal beams.
The footbridge is about a mile upstream from the spot where police said that Salazar liked to visit. Sanon’s death was unrelated to the footbridge or swimming hole. He entered the creek a couple of miles downstream just north of Frankford Avenue. ••