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R.I. teen’s body found in Milford quarry

Sonar was used to search dangerous water long used by youths for swimming

MILFORD — On the dirt path leading to Fletcher’s Quarry, amid dense brush and the shade of abundant trees, a sign warns visitors in bold lettering: “Private Property. Trespassing is strictly forbidden.” Similar warnings are posted along Walden Way, where condominiums sit a short walk from the cliff that authorities said proved irresistible to a Rhode Island teenager, who leapt to his death Sunday.

Despite the most recent tragedy, Milford residents agree: When temperatures climb and the humidity becomes unbearable, youths will dive into the old quarry below.

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“They’ve been swimming in there for God knows how many years, and it’s hard to keep them out,” said Mindy Katz, who lives on Walden Way. “It’s just really sad. It is very, very dangerous.”

A day after 18-year-old Nentor Dahn of Providence jumped into Fletcher’s Quarry and did not resurface, his body was found about 70 feet down and 10 feet away from the cliff. Authorities used sonar to search the water, Police Chief Thomas O’Loughlin said at a press conference Monday.

Deputy Police Chief James Heron said Dahn, who was at the quarry with four friends, dove in and “landed awkwardly and never resurfaced.” His body was found at 10:14 a.m. Monday, said State Police spokesman Daniel Richard.

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The death was the second at a Milford quarry since 2007, and the fourth in almost two decades.

The allure of quarry diving, and the potentially lethal results that follow, are not confined to Milford. Injuries and even deaths have been reported from quarries in Milford, Quincy, and Rockport. Big Granite Rail Quarry in Quincy was filled with material from the Big Dig after multiple drownings, said Bill Hickey, spokesman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Nentor Dahn’s brother, Milton, 16, said Nentor graduated in June from Providence Career and Technical Academy, where he studied carpentry.

“He was a very happy person, very outgoing, very respectful with people,” Milton Dahn said. “He loved to make people laugh. He stood up for everybody.”

He said relatives were grieving in Providence after learning that authorities found the body in Fletcher’s Quarry.

O’Loughlin said Dahn and his friends had parked at a fast-food restaurant and made the 2-mile trek to Walden Way.

“Here’s a young guy who went out that day probably telling his parents he was going swimming with his friends,” O’Loughlin said. “Who would expect? It’s just an awful, awful tragedy. There’s an 18-year-old young person who lost his life. You have a family that is devastated. You have the friends who were there . . . devastated.”

Fletcher’s is privately owned and managed by Barkan Management Co. in Hopkinton. Company representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

O’Loughlin said the quarry’s private ownership makes it difficult to act. Police have attempted to fence off quarries before, he said, but trespassers cut the fences. Milford police routinely tow vehicles parked on private property if they suspect that visitors intend to swim in the quarries, he said.

“Your swimming day is going to cost $185,” he said. “You might [reconsider] going.”

Cigarette butts and beer cans abound below the tall cliffs of the quarry, trash choking small crevices near the water. Broken glass litters the ground near painted targets where visitors evidently smash bottles. But the water, the main attraction of the quarries that are a legacy of Milford’s industrial past, remained crystal clear Monday.

Public safety and rescue officials said that is what brings out-of-state visitors to Fletcher’s, one of two major quarries in Milford where people can still swim. For thrill-seekers and youths, the quarry’s 50-foot cliffs are the draw.

“Kids are looking for the thrill of jumping off the cliffs,” Fire Chief Bill Touhey said. “If we weren’t here, they’d be in there.”

The quarries were left behind after Milford’s granite industry began declining in the 1940s and 1950s. Their signature pink granite built the Brooklyn Bridge, the Boston Public Library, and the steps and foundation for the Lincoln Memorial.

Seven or eight major quarries remain in the Milford area, said local historian Anne Lamontagne, 71, but only two are fit for swimming.

“It was just beautiful. They say most kids learned to swim in Milford in the quarries in the ’40s and ’50s.”

Back then, she said, the swimmers were mostly men, who, for the most part, skinny-dipped. People jumped into the water, never knowing whether they would hit a stone below the surface.

“It’s almost like a rite of passage,” she said.

At Fletcher’s on Sunday, divers described a rugged underwater setting, with rocks and at least one vehicle with the potential to snag their gear.

The water is as deep as 120 feet.

“It’s very, very unsafe,” Touhey said. “It’s very dangerous just walking along these quarries, let alone jumping off a cliff. Go to the beach.”

Globe correspondent Kiera Blessing contributed to this report. Faiz Siddiqui can be reached at faiz.siddiqui@
globe.com
. Follow him on Twitter @faizsays.
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