9 Year Old Drowning Victim Couldn't Swim

June 6, 2011 Updated Jun 6, 2011 at 7:02 PM EDT

By Jennifer Stanonis

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June 6, 2011 Updated Jun 6, 2011 at 7:02 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- A sunny and warm Sunday afternoon took a deadly turn for a young boy who went in a pond on Buffalo's Squaw Island. The family of 9 year old Joel Rama says the last time they saw him was as he rode away on his bicycle with friends toward Squaw Island on Sunday. His sister says they looked for him hours later when he didn't return home. "We thought he would come back, he always goes down to his friend's down there so we thought he was there, he wasn't," Odette Nsaguye, Joel's sister, said.

Police were called to Squaw Island around 6:30pm Sunday following reports of a group of boys swimming and one of them did not surface. Dive teams eventually located the 9 year old. He was rushed to the hospital but could not be revived. His sister says he couldn't swim. "They tried, but they couldn't save him," Nsaguye said.

Family members gathered at a relative's house Monday on Buffalo's west side to remember Joel. "He would go to church...he was a really good kid," Nsaguye said. "He was smart and good dreams and everything."

Joel's older sister says he went to School 3 and the entire family attends Our Lady of Hope church. Joel was in the gospel drama group there. The pastor and other staff members stopped by their home on Buffalo's west side early Monday to pray. "These kids come every Sunday, from this little guy all the way up and they participate," Sister Susan Bowles, at Our Lady of Hope Church, said.

Joel's family moved to Buffalo from Africa in 2007 and speak Kirundi. His sister translated what his father, Francois, said about questions he has regarding what happened to his son. "He says he still has some questions about Joel and those kids who were with him. He still doesn't understand what has happened to Joel cause he never swam before," Nsaguye said.

Officials say temperatures were in the low 60s in the pond. "Hypothermia will kick in, drain their body heat 25% faster being in the water than being in the air," Officer Tyler Benson, with the United States Coast Guard in Buffalo, said.

The 9 year old may have been under water for more than 40 minutes. It's the same area where another child drowned last year. Rescuers remind parents and kids to always use the buddy system and notify others where you will be.