MILLVILLE — A 15-year-old Millville boy drowned Friday night while trying to retrieve his fishing pole from the Maurice River, police said.

The unidentified Hispanic teenager was fishing along the bulkhead at the Riverfront Park when he dropped his pole into the water. Millville Police Sgt. Harry Cranmer said the boy jumped in after it.

The incident was reported at 7:30 p.m. Officers were dispatched to the location — just a block away from the police station — and arrived moments later. Of the first responders, Cranmer said, at least four officers jumped into the water.

 

Police were limited in their initial search, with the sun having nearly set and the typically murky river even more so due to recent rainfall. With only about a foot of visibility under water, police officers felt around but found nothing.

 

A dive crew was called in from Downe Township. With several officers in the water, boats dredging the small area and still others searching from the shore, it took nearly an hour to find the boy’s body.

 

The police department’s command vehicle sat on the Main Street bridge, and spotlights illuminated the waterway below. On both sides of the river, hundreds of onlookers gathered.

 

A large group of people, many of them members of the victim’s family, wept when police told them the body had been found. A decoy ambulance sped off with its lights flashing and sirens blaring. Police then asked a few family members to identify the body, which was transported to an empty dock downriver.

 

While several family members were present, Cranmer declined to release the boy’s name, saying that other family members might need to be notified. He did say the death was an accident, but additional details — such as whether an injury sustained while jumping contributed to his death — were unknown.

 

Eric Jarvis, 17, was eating dinner with his father at a nearby pizzeria when the commotion began. Jarvis said he arrived after the boy went under, but he talked to other people who were fishing when the boy fell in. According to Jarvis, they said the boy did not jump in but instead fell.

The victim screamed for help, Jarvis said. He could not swim, Jarvis said.

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