Students return to school day after tragic drowning

June 23, 2010 3:26:23 PM PDT
Students returned to school Wednesday for the first time since the death of their classmates during a field trip to the beach.

Twelve-year old Nicole Suriel was a sixth grade student at Columbia Secondary School, died yesterday at Long Beach on Long Island.

An investigation is underway as to why the students were at a beach with no lifeguards on duty.

Many parents say they're standing by the school and are waiting for answers before making any judgment, one way or the other.

Suriel's heartbroken father says if he had known that no lifeguards were on duty, he would have never let his daughter go to Long Beach with her class. Amid posted signs warning people to stay out of the water, the young girl was in the ocean with her classmates when a powerful riptide pulled her under.

Juan Suriel says he never signed a permission slip allowing his daughter to go on that class trip.

Mr. Suriel told Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Leid in Spanish, "Everyone loved my daughter."

Her cousin Orelbi says the pre-teen had big dream and loads of promise. "She wanted to act. Make a lot of money so that she could so that her mom didn't have to work." She adds, "She was always getting metals and trophies at her school."

"I don't understand why they picked a beach without lifeguards, with just three teachers and so many children in tow."

The father spent the day talking to administrators of the school. He's still waiting for answers.

Harold Rodriguez, a student at the school, saw the whole thing. "She was just out in the water and she kept getting pulled away by the current and nobody could get to her," he said.

The 6th graders were reportedly escorted by three adult chaperones, including an undergraduate intern. The question is on many minds is why did the adults let the kids swim when there were signs warning against it and no lifeguards on duty? The department of education has clearly stated procedures for school trips.

Where the trip involves activities with inherent risks (including swimming) the Principal or designee must ensure that there is adult supervision appropriate to the activity.

The president of the teachers union said answers are being sought.

Some parents say the support, the answers, it's simply too late for that.

But many parents are reserving judgment

"Support the principal, teachers, students. Any scandal doesn't concern me. It's about the kids right now," said Charles Miller.

Wednesday was one of the last days of school. Ordinarily, students would be celebrating. Today, extra counselors were on hand to help the students manage their grief.