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Woman talks about seeing boys before drowning

August 7, 2012 1:55:06 PM PDT
The last known person to see the two boys who drown in the Raritan River is speaking out.

The pathway along the Raritan River is popular with children riding their bikes but it's clearly marked that there is no swimming allowed.

Now two devastated families are trying to figure out how their sons drowned there and there is one woman who may hold some of the clues.

"I was the last person they talked to and I didn't think anything would happen," said Jennifer Smakolski, a New Brunswick resident.

Jennifer Smakolski was taking her daughter out for a bike ride along the Raritan River Sunday night when she saw two boys, fully clothed and still wearing their shoes.

They were wading up to their ankles in the mud along the banks of the river.

"I said, 'What are you doing there?' I said, 'Can you swim?' They said, 'Yes', I said, 'Be careful.' I didn't know they were going to go out," Smakolski said.

Investigators believe that 10-year-old Francisco Perera and his best friend, 11-year-old Devine Nicholas, did eventually go out and somehow got swept up in the muddy, cold water of the Raritan River.

The fifth graders' bodies were found Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after their mothers reported them missing.

"I miss my son and I wish he was home, that's all," said Carol Leonard, victim's mother.

Both boys were top students at Lincoln Elementary School in New Brunswick.

Devine's mother said her son loved reading and going to the library and she believes he was smart enough to know his limits.

"My son couldn't swim and I know my son would never have gone in the water because he couldn't swim," Leonard said.

The two friends told their moms they were going to the park, and never came home.

Police say the boys' drownings were likely accidental, but Devine's family is skeptical.

"I think there was some foul play because my stepson knew he couldn't swim," said Frank Wright, Devine's stepfather.

The Medical Examiner's Office has ruled that both boys cause of death is accidental drowning. There is nothing to suggest that foul play is involved.

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