BROCKTON — It was an idyllic evening and the two young cousins stood in shallow water at the edge of the lake, skipping rocks across the surface.
Then, in a horrific scene that unfolded in full view of family members, one boy fell into a steep underwater drop-off, and when his cousin tried to rescue him, both disappeared, officials said Sunday.
Both boys drowned, despite frantic efforts by family and other people nearby to save them, officials said. A third boy, who is related to the cousins, also went under the water but was rescued by a relative.
The tragedy at Waldo Lake early Saturday evening left the city heartbroken and those who tried to save the boys stunned. Many who were there that night returned to the lake Sunday to mourn the deaths of the two boys who lived in Brockton and were students at South Middle School, where grief counselors were on hand for classmates and their families.
“Our hearts here in the city are just torn,” Mayor Robert Sullivan told reporters during a Sunday morning press conference.
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz identified the victims as Rafael Andrande, 13, and Tiago Depina, 12, both of Brockton, in a statement released late Sunday morning.
Cruz said in the statement that the boys did not know how to swim. The investigation is ongoing, but no foul play is suspected, according to the statement.
Brockton schools Superintendent Michael Thomas, in a statement, said the district would have a team of counselors available Sunday afternoon to provide emotional support.
“Our hearts are with the students’ family and loved ones as they cope with this unthinkable loss,” he said in the statement.
According to Cruz, at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Brockton police received a 911 call for a medical emergency and possible drowning at the city’s Waldo Lake in D.W. Field Park.
Valdo Centeio, who was at the lake Saturday night with friends, described hearing a man yelling for help. He said he saw a child waving his arms in the water, and the man yelled that two boys had fallen in.
Centeio and his friend, Yannick Depina (who is not related to Tiago Depina) jumped into the lake as another friend, Marcio Monteiro Do Canto, called 911. They swam, trying to feel their way around in the water, searching for the children.
On Sunday, Centeio, Depina, and their friends came back to pay their respects.
Centeio brought pink carnations, which he put into the water. He said he hadn’t slept, that he felt traumatized.
“I spent like almost an hour just looking, looking, looking, looking,” Centeio said. “Once I was in the water, everything was just dark.”
Depina stayed in the water even after he lost a contact lens, making his search in the dark water more difficult.
“I would have given my life for those two kids,” Depina said Sunday.
When police arrived at the scene, they determined that two children had gone under the water but they were unable to find them. The officers asked the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team for help.
At about 8:51 p.m., divers located Andrande and he was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to Cruz.
Depina was found by divers shortly after that, at about 9:33 p.m., according to Cruz, and taken to the same hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Responders performed life-saving measures on both boys at the scene before they were taken to the hospital, according to officials.
“Several family members and witnesses in the area at the time made attempts at rescuing the boys but were unsuccessful,” the statement from Cruz said.
Speaking to reporters at D.W. Field Park Sunday morning, Brockton Fire Chief Michael Williams said the three boys had been in the water, and one had been rescued by a relative.
“When he [the relative] went to return, he couldn’t see the other two boys,” Williams said.
He said he had no information about that boy’s condition Sunday.
Williams described first responders’ efforts” to save the boys as “heroic” and said they were offered counseling.
“Everyone seems okay,” he said.
During the Sunday morning press conference, Sullivan said the city’s prayers and condolences are going out to the two boys’ families.
“My title is mayor, but my job is dad,” Sullivan said. “I’m a dad of three kids and I cannot even fathom what this family is going through today.”
People must be cautious around any waterways, he warned.
Late Sunday morning, D.W. Field Park was crowded with people enjoying the sunny weather. But the area around Waldo Lake was quieter, with only a few people walking with dogs or carrying fishing poles as they walked through narrow wooded paths around the water. The park has 650 acres of lakes, ponds, and woodlands.
Near the spot where the boys drowned was a memorial to the two: white candles on the ground with teddy bears and flowers. Colorful balloons floated over the display against a brilliant blue sky.
In a photo taken just minutes before the tragedy and shared on Facebook, the two boys stood on the lakeshore with their arms across each other’s shoulders. Each smiled for the camera; behind them, the lake’s water gleamed.
Some people at the scene voiced frustration over the pace of the city’s rescue efforts Saturday night.
Monteiro Do Canto said he called 911 and immediately asked the dispatcher to send divers to the lake.
The first police officer to arrive took off his vest and shoes and jumped into the water, he said, but over the next two hours, the friends said they saw first responders arrive and then stand around waiting for the county’s dive team, which took about 45 minutes to get there.
Monteiro Do Canto questioned why Brockton, a city of almost 100,000 people, does not have a designated diver to respond to cases like this more quickly.
“I feel they could do more,” Monteiro Do Canto said. “I’m not blaming them, I’m just saying, bring the hope that I called for. I called for hope. They didn’t bring the hope.”
Early Sunday afternoon, Michael Nunes and his wife, Marlene, came to the lake with two white teddy bears, tall white vases, sunflowers, and a balloon shaped like a rainbow emerging from a cloud. Bri Nichols, a Brockton City Council candidate, wrote the boys’ names on the cloud-shaped balloon. Marlene Nunes placed the flowers in the vases and sprinkled some powdered flower food that came with the bouquets.
Michael Nunes also questioned why help wasn’t available right away — divers, boats, or life preservers on shore that someone could have thrown into the water.
Dave Wedge, a Brockton city spokesman, said Sunday night that emergency crews responded to the scene as soon as they received the 911 call.
“They were there as fast as humanly possible,” Wedge said.