Weekend drownings leave mark on Queens

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A 10-year-old Queens girl who attended an Oakland Gardens elementary school was still missing Tuesday after she was swept up in the waves off Coney Island over the weekend, according to published reports.

While Akira Johnson was yet to be found after disappearing Saturday, the body believed to be that of a 22-year-old Brooklyn man who disappeared in the waters off Riis Park Friday was recovered Monday, police said.

They were two of seven swimmers who drowned in the city and on Long Island over the weekend. Four were declared dead, while three were listed as missing.

Akira was a third-grader at PS 188 in Oakland Gardens, according to the New York Post.

A woman who answered the phone at the school said she was unable to say whether Akira attended PS 188.

Her grandfather, Charles German, called her "a good girl, very smart," the paper said.

"She'll be missed," German said.

She was playing with her cousin, Tyriek Johnson, by the rocks near the water when she was pulled into the waves by strong currents, the Post said.

Her family could not be reached for comment.

As Akira's family was holding out hope that she would be found alive, the body believed to be 22-year-old Devon Flanders of Brooklyn was recovered from the waters off Riis Park at around 11:35 a.m. Monday, police said.

NYPD helicopters hovering around Riis Park located the body from the air while the marine unit of U.S. Parks Police recovered it, according to National Parks Service spokesman Brian Feeney.

Shortly after the body was found, Feeney said it was possible that it was Akira, although police later identified it as a 22-year-old black man.

"With these tides and currents, you never know who it is," he said.

Flanders' family could not be reached for comment.

The body of a Jamaica girl who drowned July 18 in the Rockaways last week was found July 23.

The city medical examiner's office said July 24 that 16-year-old Tiara Coaxum died from a drowning accident.

JoAnn Arbitello, coach and administrator for the independent youth basketball team on which Tiara played, said she was a "good kid" who was energetic and family-oriented.

"I was devastated," Arbitello said. "I've never had something like that happen in my program. Not only did I have to do deal with that, my team had to deal with that."

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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