Funerals held for drowning victims

November 22, 2008 9:51:22 PM PST
Funerals were held Saturday for two of the three Chicago teens who drowned during a school leadership last week.Jimmy Avant, 18, and Melvin Choice, 17, were buried Saturday. Mourners remembered them as good students with so much potential.

A steady stream of friends and loved ones came to remember the young life of Jimmy Avant.

"Jimmy is a real good person," said Deatrice Tucker, the victim's cousin.

Inside the service, there was standing room only as many reflected on Avant's achievement as valedictorian of his eighth grade class and as an honor roll student at his current North Lawndale College Prep.

Both classmates and school teammates professed their grief while offering support to the teen's family.

Avant, along with fellow students 16-year-old Adrian Jones and 17-year-old Melvin Choice Jr. drowned while attending Camp Algonquin in the suburbs for a leadership seminar. Investigators say it appears that during the early morning hours on November 14, at least one of the boys took a paddleboat from the campsite onto the Fox River, not realizing it had been winterized and would sink if put in the water.

Authorities say two of the teens died after their craft capsized, and a third died after he went into the water from the shore to try to rescue his friends.

Just days before she buried her son, Choice's mother, Virginia Choice, filed a lawsuit accusing organizers of the retreat along with the Chicago Public Schools of negligence.

In the meantime, the family and friends of Choice continued to struggle with his death.

"I really can't believe....it happened suddenly," said Ayanna Sidney, a friend of Melvin Choice Jr.

As the relatives say goodbye, a memorial service is planned for next week so school can say goodbye, too.

More than 1,000 people attended a funeral Friday for the third drowning victim, Jones, who dreamed of becoming a marine biologist.


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