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‘She was full of life’: Somerville woman killed in Boston Harbor crash was dedicated to family, dance

Jeanica Julce, 27-year-old woman from Somerville was killed early Saturday morning in Boston Harbor after the boat she and seven others were aboard struck a navigational marker and sank in the waters off Castle Island.
Jeanica Julce, 27-year-old woman from Somerville was killed early Saturday morning in Boston Harbor after the boat she and seven others were aboard struck a navigational marker and sank in the waters off Castle Island.

A Somerville woman was remembered by loved ones Sunday for her devotion to dance and dedication to family, just a day after she was killed while aboard a boat that crashed and sank in Boston Harbor.

Jeanica Julce, 27, loved travel, being with friends, and had family across the country, as well as in Haiti and Canada, said her cousin, Samuel Ceus.

“She was full of life,” Ceus said. “She’s going to be missed by her entire family in Boston and Georgia and across the country. We’re in shock, nobody can really take this right now.”

Julce was also working to open a dance school to help give back to her community, said her friend, Tyrone Kevin Perry. Friends are planning a vigil for Julce to be held Thursday at the Unknown Hype Dance Company on Morton Street in Mattapan, he said.

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“There was something about bettering somebody, and enhancing somebody, that fulfilled her,” Perry said.

Officials continued their investigation Sunday into Julce’s death, which occurred after the boat carrying her and seven others struck a navigational marker off Castle Island around 3 a.m. Saturday.

The other seven boaters were rescued and five of them were sent to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, investigators have said.

Julce’s death is under investigation by the Suffolk district attorney’s office and Boston police’s homicide unit, according to standard procedure, Boston Police Sergeant Detective John Boyle said Saturday.

Suffolk district attorney spokeswoman Renee Algarin asked in a statement Sunday that people with information about the case contact Boston police homicide detectives at 617-343-4470.

“Our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of the woman who has died as they begin the first steps of their journey toward healing,” Algarin said.

Algarin and Boyle declined to release further details about the investigation Sunday.

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A Massachusetts Environmental Police boat was positioned near the wreckage of an overturned pleasure boat in Boston Harbor during an hours-long rescue effort Saturday morning.
A Massachusetts Environmental Police boat was positioned near the wreckage of an overturned pleasure boat in Boston Harbor during an hours-long rescue effort Saturday morning.John Tlumacki

Saturday’s crash has shaken Julce’s loved ones, who are grappling with losing her. According to a fund-raiser set up to cover the cost of her funeral, Julce was “loved by so many people.”

Julce was majoring in finance at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, according to the GoFundMe page.

“Her happy vibrant loving energy was hard to miss. Jeanica loved to love others and made [it] her mission to put a smile on everyone’s face. Jeanica loved to dance, she [danced] her way into everyone’s heart,” according to the website. “Her smile lit up the room.”

Ceus, 41, a cousin from Snellville, Ga., said Julce was close with her proud father, who would often post photos of his daughter on Facebook.

“He was always showing her off,” Ceus said. “She was definitely daddy’s little girl. She had four older siblings, and she was the baby.

“Of course he loved his other kids, but he loved that little girl,” Ceus said.

Ceus said the family will hold a service possibly in a couple of weeks to allow family members to travel.

And, he said, they’re hoping for more answers about the boat crash.

“She was out there with her friends doing this after-party, they were just trying to enjoy themselves,” he said. “I heard the boat flipped over and she hit her head, but we don’t really know what’s going on.”

He did not elaborate on what kind of “after party,” she might have been at.

The Go Fund Me page for Jeanica Julce, a 27-year-old woman from Somerville who was killed early Saturday morning in Boston Harbor after the boat she and seven others were aboard struck a navigational marker and sank in the waters off Castle Island.
The Go Fund Me page for Jeanica Julce, a 27-year-old woman from Somerville who was killed early Saturday morning in Boston Harbor after the boat she and seven others were aboard struck a navigational marker and sank in the waters off Castle Island.

Perry and Julce met in 2019 while performing together at the Strand Theatre. After the performing arts was disrupted by the pandemic, Julce asked Perry to help her train in private dance lessons.

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“She felt successful each and every time she was able to progress beyond something that was difficult for her,” Perry said. “But there was also something that she loved about it: the movement, the connection to music, and the connection to people you feel when you start dancing.”

They worked together weekly in private lessons and last trained Wednesday in Cambridge. They had planned to get together again Monday night, he said.

On Wednesday, she had been sore from dancing the previous night. Perry offered to postpone, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

“Thank God she said — and this is just like her — ‘No, I really want to do this, because I’m so adamant about working on myself,’ " Perry said.

Saturday’s crash triggered a frantic search to rescue the people thrown into the water and then an hours-long recovery effort to locate Julce, who was missing.

The boat crash Saturday morning was reported to the Coast Guard shortly after 3 a.m. by the tugboat Steven Leman, according to Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Wyrick, spokeswoman for the Coast Guard, Sunday.

Within minutes, that report resulted in a massive rescue effort, which included the Coast Guard, crews from Boston police, fire, and EMS, State Police, Environmental Police, and the Massport Fire Department.

Recordings of radio calls from that early morning search revealed how quickly rescuers worked in the darkness to save the boaters. Three of them were discovered clinging to the structure of the navigational marker, while others were hanging onto the wreck of the capsized vessel.

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“I can only hear one person who’s yelling, screaming for help, and we can see a person... laid out on the overturned wreck,” one first responder said in a recording.

About four minutes later, rescue crews asked for help from the Coast Guard.

“We have several people in the water, can we get some assistance from the Coast Guard? We have four in the water right now, and we need an ambulance,” a rescuer said over the radio.

Victims were transported to the dock at Black Falcon Avenue, where they were loaded onto waiting ambulances. One person had a head injury, another had been hurt in the leg.

Rescuers spent a great deal of time trying to determine how many people had been on board the boat when it sank.

A second boat — apparently unconnected with the rescue effort — was on scene, but left, according to the recording.

“We still don’t know what’s going on. They came here, and just did circles,” a rescuer said on the radio about nine minutes after the radio calls began. “They [saw] the people, and they just left them there.”

“The guys tried swimming towards them, and they just did a circle and went back,” the rescuer added. “We didn’t see if they took anyone out of the water.”

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At one point early in the search, rescuers reported that there had been eight passengers — and one woman was still missing.

“One of the men on the boat reported that there were eight total passengers, souls on board. Eight total souls on board,” the first responder said over the radio. “And they are reporting that there is another female who is in the water who we do not have.”



John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.