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Northern Highlands Daily Voice serves Allendale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Midland Park, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River & Waldwick

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Teen Boy Who Drowned In Raritan Bay Was Reportedly On Autism Spectrum

Johnny Vazquez, 17, drowned in the Raritan Bay after a two-hour search July 9, 2020. Photo Credit: Facebook Perth Amboy Now/
NJSP marine units, NYPD Harbor unit and U.S. Coast Guard were assisted by dozens of private sailors to search for two people lost in Raritan Bay. A 30-year-old was rescued but a teenager remained missing late Thursday. (Photo: Perth Amboy Now) Photo Credit: Facebook/ Perth Amboy Now

The Perth Amboy community is rallying for the family of a 17-year-old boy who drowned in the Raritan Bay Thursday.

A GoFundMe intended to help fund a funeral service for Johnny Vasquez had raised $740 as of Friday afternoon.

Vasquez -- who family members said was on the autism spectrum and suffered from epilepsy -- was unconscious when his body was recovered by NYPD divers around 5 p.m. Thursday.

He had been in the water for more than two hours after he went missing and was pronounced dead at the hospital, his family told news outlets.

A 30-year-old man who jumped in to rescue Vasquez after he went missing around 2:30 p.m. in the western Raritan Bay also needed rescuing. He is reportedly stable.

Vasquez's family told a PIX11 News television crew that he was on the autism spectrum and suffered from epilepsy.

"He loved riding his bike with his friends and loved being with his family most," said the GoFundMe, launched by Deanna Kertesz Nye, who identified herself as his cousin. "His smile said it all."

They held onto hope as long as they could, but relatives say it was ultimately the boy’s uncle, a first responder at the rescue scene, who broke the news. “And he said he didn’t make it,” another relative, Patty Kertesz, told CBS2-TV News.  

“Adventurous, a really helpful person,” cousin Christian Torres said. Torres said his cousin loved to swim.

"Johnny was a special boy," his family told PIX11 News in a statement. "He was a young man with a heart of gold and a whole world in front of him. He is very much loved by all his family."

Perth Amboy Police Chief Larry Cattano told several news outlets swimming in the area is enticing, but dangerous. 

The search for Vasquez began around 2:40 p.m. near a yacht club and railroad bridge at Water and Lewis streets. The Coast Guard deployed a 29-foot rescue boat from Station New York and a helicopter from Air Station Atlantic City.

Backpacks and bikes were strewn along the rocky waterfront. Apparently Vasquez was there with friends who dared each other to jump in and swim toward a buoy. But swimming is prohibited there because of strong, dangerous tides, officials said.

Private boaters got involved in searching for the teenager, dotting Perth Amboy's waterfront with dozens of sailboats and other craft. 

Joining state troopers and the Coast Guard were fire departments from Perth Amboy, Carteret and Hopelawn. Aviation units from NY and NJ assisted. State and federal marine rescue units from both states also were helping search.

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