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All of us at Buffalo Toronto Public Media are heartbroken by the senseless tragedy that occurred in our great City on Saturday, May 14th. We are grieving with our community and are committed to helping it heal. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, friends, and the employees and customers of Tops Friendly Markets.

Two teenagers drown in Union Ship Canal

Photo from Buffalo Urban Development Corporation

Two area teenagers were pronounced dead at local hospitals Thursday evening after Buffalo Police divers rescued them from the Union Ship Canal in South Buffalo where they had been swimming.

Police received several emergency calls around 8:15 p.m. saying a boy and a girl were struggling in the water. One bystander attempted to rescue them but also had difficulty in the water and had to move to shore.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner  Garnell Whitfield met with reporters late Friday afternoon saying the water they were swimming in was very deep.

"Right now we're not sure if they jumped in the water and hit something. They were struggling in the water. They went down and did not come back up," said Commissioner Whitfield. 

It took divers 25 minutes to extract the victims from the water, which they say is 18 feet deep with another 8 feet of muck at the bottom of the canal.

"We put a 35-foot ladder in to assist to bring them out.  It went down to the bottom.  It went in pretty far, so it is fairly deep," said Commissioner Whitfield. 

The 17-year-old boy, identified Friday morning as Dondre Herring, is from Lackawanna. He was taken to Buffalo General. The 16-year-old girl, Alexis Matte of Buffalo, was taken to Mercy Hospital. Both were unresponsive when they were pulled from the water.

"One of those young persons was in the water first, had some difficulty, the other person entered the water to try and assist and they both succumbed," said Whitfield.

Whitefield stressed it is NOT an area anyone should swim in.

"You don't know what's underneath that surface.  Very difficult, very hostile environment," said Commissioner Whitfield.

Whitfield said there are some fences in the Union Ship Canal area to keep citizens out, but it doesn't always prevent someone from going into the waters.

A candlelight vigil for the couple has been planned for Tuesday night at 8 PM in Lackawanna's Victory Park.

The accident is under investigation.