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Top Stories 2012: Ossining's Bryan Johnson Drowns

Bryan Johnson, a 26-year-old Ossining resident, drowned in June after going for a late-night swim in the Bronx.
Bryan Johnson, a 26-year-old Ossining resident, drowned in June after going for a late-night swim in the Bronx. Photo Credit: Family Photo

OSSINING, N.Y. - A 26-year-old Ossining man drowned after a prank went wrong in Orchard Beach in June. 

Bryan Johnson was reported missing June 20 after he and several friends reportedly went for a late-night swim in the Bronx. Johnson disappeared just before 11 p.m. after jumping from a boat into Long Island Sound with a group of others to swim. Police said the boat pulled away without Johnson.

According to the family, other passengers on the boat had told them the driver, a classmate of Johnson's at Ossining High School, decided to pull a prank and drive the boat about 50 yards away from the swimmers in the water. The driver didn't return in time to get Johnson out of the water. 

Johnson's mother, Sheila Lilley, said at least three people on the boat were from Ossining.

“Two girls that went with him that day came by and the kid that graduated with him also came by the house,” Lilley said in July. “They wanted to tell me their stories. So I called the detectives to tell them, and they didn't want to listen."

Lilley later joined Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) and state Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) in pushing for boating safety.

“I feel it’s appalling to know that New York state has no mandatory safety boating education requirements for operating a watercraft,” Lilley said during a press conference in July at Ossining’s Boathouse Restaurant. “For someone to be playing a prank in the dead of darkness and have none of these safety tools is unacceptable. To think you don’t even need a boating license. That’s even insane.”

Bryan Johnson’s father, Emanuel Johnson, said he was very thankful for the support the family received from the community.

“It shows you what kind of son we had. He was a good boy and it hurts the heart with what happened but it makes us happy to see people coming out to show love for him,” Emanuel Johnson said in July. “Bryan was well respected and respectful. He was gentle, soft-spoken and we were always so proud of him.”

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