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Creek hazard cited as West Seneca teen is mourned Rolling undercurrent contributes to tragedy

The hazards of rain-swollen Buffalo Creek in West Seneca were not obvious when 15-year-old Mitchell S. Pearce jumped in for an evening swim last week, authorities said.

The West Seneca West Middle School student died Sunday in Women & Children's Hospital from injuries suffered when he was swept over a dam and into a pocket of water "that goes into a rolling motion," according to West Seneca Police Chief Edward F. Gehen.

Mitchell, an eighth-grader, had gone to the creek in the area of Lexington Green at about 7 p.m. June 12 with several other friends and decided to hop into the water, the chief said.

Members of the Winchester Volunteer Fire Company pulled the unconscious teenager from the water about 20 minutes later near the Harlem Road bridge and rushed him to Mercy Hospital, where he was revived and later transported to Women & Children's. He died there at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

"For a variety of reasons, these creeks are attractive to teenagers. The creeks look nice and picturesque, but their true dangers aren't realized until it is too late," Gehen said. "This was very tragic."

Water below the dam, he explained, had a churning undercurrent, and recent rains increased the level of the creek, as well.

Brian S. Graham, principal of the middle school, notified families of the tragedy, explaining that Mitchell died as a result of a swimming accident.

"If you didn't know Mitch, he was a very charismatic boy filled with a passion for fun. He was also very close with many of his friends, and these friends, in turn, are all wonderful students," Graham said Tuesday.

Mitchell's mother, Suzanne, expressed gratitude for the "love, support and prayers" that were sent her way in recent days, Graham said. "She is very grateful to the West Seneca West community," he said.

Services are scheduled at noon Friday in St. David's Episcopal Church, 3951 Seneca St., West Seneca.

Surviving, in addition to Mitchell's mother, is a brother, Dylan.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com