Police recover body from Pennypack Creek

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. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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