VINELAND — Two Bridgeton brothers were identified Thursday after they were found dead in South Vineland Park Lake following a fishing trip, police said.
Police and a friend said Saul Bautista-Vargas, 27, and his brother, Otoniel Bautista-Vargas, 30, both of Lakeview Drive, had been fishing before they drowned at the park, located in the 400 block of West Elmer Road.
Vineland police received a call at 7:49 p.m. Wednesday from a boater saying he thought he saw a body at the bottom of the lake, police Lt. Steven Triantos said Thursday.
“It appeared the men were fishing and that one wanted to go for a swim. It appears that the man had trouble swimming and the other man went in to help,” Triantos said.
Fishing gear and personal effects belonging to the men were found at the scene, police said. There were no signs of foul play, and all indications point to drowning as the cause of death of both victims, police said in a statement.
Danny Cabrera, 33, said he grew up with the two men. Cabrera said the last he remembered, the Vargas brothers lived off Seventh Street and Peach Avenue in Vineland.
“I was probably 16 or 17 years old when I met Saul,” said Cabrera. “In high school I used to go fishing with them. They would kayak and catch bass.”
Cabrera said the brothers were avid fishermen and often were at the lake for bass fishing.
“It was their favorite sport,” he said.
There was a 5K race Wednesday night in the park, and police closed the park after they learned about the bodies, Triantos said.
The Downe Township Dive Team recovered the bodies, police said.
There are no lifeguards on duty and signs are posted saying swimming is not allowed, Triantos said.
Michelle Cook, of Millville, came to the park Thursday.
Her family has not gone in the water to swim at the lake because there are no lifeguards.
“It’s my daughter’s birthday, so we wanted to come to the lake,” she said of Mary Kay, 9. “We came out here to see if we were allowed and to see if cops were out here.”
“It’s just sad,” she said.