Paterson students fondly remember classmate who drowned in Woodland Park reservoir

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Shortly after 2 p.m. on Monday , a crowd of students walked through the gates in front of Eastside High School after being dismissed from class. Of over 20 pupils interviewed by a reporter, only a few had not heard of the tragic death of their classmate, Naz’ier Randolph.

Divers from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office scuba team discovered the body of the 15-year-old on Sunday morning. He drowned in the Great Notch Reservoir on Rifle Camp Road in Woodland Park, according to borough Mayor Keith Kazmark.

Condolences were expressed to the family and friends of the teen member of Eastside’s School of Information Technology in a press release from Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer, published on Monday morning.

Sophomores Kiyer Johnson and Angel Lugo spoke highly of Naz’ier, of whom Kiyer said, “That was my guy.”

“I was friends with him,” Kiyer continued. “We used to chill together. He was very outgoing and always had a smile on his face.”

Kiyer said that he and Naz’ier went on an outing several months ago.

“We boarded a bus and went to the mall,” Kiyer said. “We looked around at a lot of shops and went to a movie. We had a lot of fun.”

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Lugo, 16, concurred with his friend.

“I was in Spanish class with Naz’ier,” Angel said. “He was a really cool person. I agree that he was always smiling.”

The teenager's friends called 911 at about 3:45 p.m. on Saturday and told police they were cliff-jumping into the water, according to a statement from the Woodland Park Police Department. The boy also dove into the water, but he did not know how to swim, the statement said.

Senior Angelica Diaz said that Naz’ier was someone who was “always there.” The 19-year-old said that despite their differences in ages and grade levels, she and many other older students knew Naz’ier and were impacted by his friendliness.

“Everybody loved him," Diaz said. "He didn’t have any issues with anybody. He was never a troubled kid and he was really well known. I saw him almost every day in the hallway. He was always talking with friends. Whenever I happened to pass him, he would say, 'Hello.'”

Of students interviewed, only one said that news of the tragedy had been voiced at the school by teachers, or administrators, on Monday. Diaz explained what she considered to be a painful reality.

“There were no announcements made today,” Diaz said. “It seems like we’re used to going to school here and seeing a student one day and not seeing them on the next day. Since my freshman year, there have been too many classmates that have passed away to count. Some have been murdered. It seems like I’ve had to make all new friends. At this point, I make sure to tell my friends that I love them in case it might happen to them.”

Sophomore Quja Gomez said she and her friend, Rayaa, a 17-year-old junior, had interacted with Naz’ier at school a couple of days before the weekend.

“Rayaa and I were socializing with Naz’ier and his friend,” Quja said. “Rayaa brought cookies to school and shared them with me, Naz’ier, and his friend.

“Naz’ier would light up a room,” Quja said. “He would always smile at me.”

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Jocelin Collazo said that her cousin informed her of the tragedy. The 17-year-old was walking home with her friend, Jean Franois, also 17.

“My cousin, Jaedlin, is in the eighth grade at School 10,” Jocelin said. “She said that Naz’ier was like a brother to her. Naz’ier would always hang around with Jaedlin and her boyfriend."

“It’s so sad,” Jean said. “It’s especially sad when someone loses their life at such an early age.”

Emily Gonzalez, 18, said that her psychology teacher, Ms. Hamlet, informed her class about the tragedy that morning.

“I felt so bad that the boy lost his life,” Emily said. “It’s so sad. Recently, a girl from our school also died.”

Carla Gonzales, 16, and Tiffany Figoara,15, said that their ROTC class went on a field trip to Garret Mountain on Friday.

“There were a lot of kids that went, about three busloads,” Tiffany said. “We practiced marching and were able to explore in the woods. We also had a hot dog cookout.”

Both said that on the trip they were not near any bodies of water.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about the drowning,” GonzalessCarla said. “I think it’s terrible. This is going to make me be even more careful when I go into the water from now on.”

This article originally appeared on Great Notch Reservoir drowning victim remembered by Paterson