Teen drowns in Anson B. Nixon Park
By John Chambless and Richard L. Gaw
A 17-year-old boy who swam into a pond at Anson B. Nixon Park to retrieve a soccer ball drowned on Aug. 28, according to Kennett Square Police.
Raziel Mireles Castaneda, 17, who lived in Avondale and was a student at Avon Grove High School, was at the park on the evening of Aug. 28 with his sister and her husband when he waded into the pond to retrieve a soccer ball at about 8 p.m. According to witnesses, he struggled, said, “I'm tired” and went under. He was reportedly just learning to swim.
First responders found him in the water and he was taken to Jennersville Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Witnesses said the pond is full of silt that can trap anyone who wades in it. There are signs warning that no swimming is allowed.
"It's very, very unfortunate," Kennett Square Police Chief Edward Zunino said on Sept. 2. "If you look at these ponds from their edges, the water does not look too deep, but it gets very deep, very fast. You have to be a good swimmer in order to properly navigate these waters."
Born in Almoloya De Alquisiras, Mexico, Castaneda was the son of Aurelio Mireles De La Fuente and Carmen Castaneda Lopez of Avondale. (See obituary on Page 6B.)
Responding to the scene of the drowning were Kennett Fire Company No. 1 and its water rescue team, the Longwood Fire Company and its water rescue units, Medic 91 and Southern Chester County Rescue. The Kennett Township Police and the Kennett Square Police also responded.
At Avon Grove High School, where Castenada had just begun his senior year, a moment of silence was held in his honor prior to the start of the Avon Grove-Kennett football game on Aug. 29.
On Sept. 2, school principal Tom Alexander met with the school's student assistant team at 7:25 a.m., and then with faculty, before delivering a prepared statement to the entire school body at morning announcements: "It saddens me to inform you that one of our current students, Raziel Mireles, 12th grade, passed away on Thursday, August 28th," the statement read. "Following today’s announcements, your first period teachers will be sharing some information concerning this tragic event."
During first period at the school, Avon Grove teachers read the following statement to students: "With respect to the student and his family, we need to continue to be supportive. It is important that we provide our students with structure by continuing with our daily routine. If you need to talk to someone or if you feel you are unable to participate in school activities today, you may get a pass from your teacher to go to the Guidance Office, where counselors will be available for support."
Throughout the next few days, Avon Grove students will be signing condolence cards and a large poster, which will be given to the Castenada family. In addition, guidance counselors and school therapists will be available to meet with students. There are student-led efforts underway to raise money to assist the family.
"Raziel was a very good kid, a very good student, and very giving of himself, in the sense of assisting others," Alexander said. "Teachers have told me that he was the type of person who gave easily of himself.
"As a principal, as a member of the Avon Grove community, it's very difficult to have one of our own pass away," Alexander added. "I look at Avon Grove High School as a family, and it's like losing a member of the family. We want to be here as a family and will do everything we can in the Castenada family's time of need."
At the water's edge of one of the ponds at Anson B. Nixon Park, rest two makeshift memorials to Castenada, one marked by the presence of a teddy bear. The other, accompanied by a small wooden cross and a still-lit candle, is marked with hand-written, personal letters to Castenada. Clear evidence that many people visited the scene of Castenada's death in the last few days is in the presence of dying flowers of many colors that lay still between algae, at the surface of the pond.
Memorial services have been scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 at St. Rocco's Catholic Church in Avondale. A funeral mass will follow at 7 p.m.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com.