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Martinsburg youth pulled from Potomac dies at hospital

August 27, 2009|From staff reports

The 13-year-old Berkeley County, W.Va., boy pulled from the Potomac River by a fisherman Tuesday afternoon has died, the investigating deputy said Thursday.

Dante Edward Burns was pronounced dead at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., at 5:25 a.m. Thursday, Washington County Sheriff's Deputy 1st Class Carl Witmer said in a news release. The youth was listed in extreme critical condition Tuesday night and Wednesday, police had said.

Dante was to begin classes as an eighth-grader at Spring Mills Middle School in Martinsburg, W.Va., Berkeley County Schools officials said Thursday. Classes in Berkeley County began Wednesday.

School officials learned of Dante's death at midmorning Thursday. They decided not to announce the news at school, opting instead to let parents tell their children, guidance counselor Jan Smith said Thursday afternoon.

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Counselors from the school district's crisis team were to be available Friday to talk to students if needed, Smith said. School officials also planned a moment of silence, Smith said.

Dante attended Spring Mills Middle School from Sept. 16 to Oct. 16, 2008, before he moved to New York, Smith said. She said she believed the boy had family in New York.

Dante moved back to Martinsburg this summer, and school officials were particularly concerned about the effect his death would have on students in his neighborhood, Smith said. She said she believed he lived in the Hammonds Mill area.

A 14-year-old boy, also from Martinsburg, attempted to help rescue Dante, but he became tired and swam to shore, Witmer said Tuesday night.

The boys had been swimming near a "hot wall," where warm water flows into the river near Williamsport from the R. Paul Smith Power Plant operated by Allegheny Power, Witmer said. The water temperature usually is more than 80 degrees and it is a popular place to swim and fish, Witmer said.

The water is shallow toward the middle of the river at the power plant, but is as deep as 16 feet in the area where the boys were swimming, Witmer said.

There were three fishermen nearby, and one of them put on a pair of goggles and dove into the water to search for the boy, Witmer said.

The man found him in about 8 feet of water, Witmer said.

The fishermen pulled the boy to the bank, where he was treated by emergency crews, Witmer said. He was taken to Washington County Hospital before being flown to Children's National Medical Center, Witmer said.

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