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Missing best friends found dead in New Jersey river

The pair were found on a shore off New Jersey's Raritan River. Andrew Siff reports.

A search for two missing New Jersey boys who were best friends took a tragic turn Monday as authorities pulled their bodies from the Raritan River.

The body of 10-year-old Francisco Perera was found around 3 p.m., near the base of the Route 27 bridge in nearby Highland Park, New Brunswick police Capt. J.T. Miller said. The body of 11-year-old Devine Nicholas was found about three hours later, not far from where Perera was discovered.

A fisherman who saw the first body to be pulled, later identified as Perera, said it appeared to be "a little boy." Shortly after, Nicholas' body was pulled from the river.

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Undated photos, from left, of Francisco Perera and Devine Nicholas

The boys went missing Sunday. Perera reportedly told his mother he was going to the park on Harvey Street, a few blocks away from their Somerset Street home. 

Devine Nicholas had gone to Perera's house around 1 p.m., and the pair apparently left there around 6 p.m. to go to the park, according to Carol Leonard, Nicholas' mother. 

Leonard said that as far as she knew, the boys did not regularly go to the Raritan's banks. She described her son as a fun and outgoing "good kid" who brought home all As and Bs in school.

"They didn't have any business going to the river," she said. 

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Jennifer Smakolski, of Franklin Township, told The Star-Ledger of Newark that she was walking along the banks of the river Sunday night when she saw the two boys in the water, walking away from the shoreline. She said they were in the water up to their ankles and, concerned for their safety, she asked them if they knew how to swim.

Smakolski, who was with her 5-year-old daughter, said both boys told her they could swim. So she moved on, assuming they would not wade much farther into the low-lying river.

When she and her daughter returned to the river area on Monday night, not long after the second body was found, Smakolski was stunned to learn of the tragedy.

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"I'll be thinking about this forever," she said through tears. "If only I'd stayed a little longer."

It's not clear how the boys ended up in the water. Police are continuing to investigate. 

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