The apparent drowning deaths of two young students—Ala Ousmane Barrie,11, and Garrett Warren, 13—have rocked NYC all the way to Africa’s west coast.

“We just want clarity and closure,” said Ahmadou Diallo, family spokesperson. He told the Amsterdam News, “We can’t have closure without clarity. We want to know exactly how Alfa ended up in the water.”

“My heart breaks for these young boys and their families in the wake of this tragic incident,” Mayor Eric Adams told the Amsterdam News. “These innocent two were loving sons who had bright futures ahead of them. While the investigation remains ongoing, the thoughts and prayers of all New Yorkers are with the loved ones of Alfa and Garrett during this unimaginably difficult time.”

There are so many unanswered questions in this case of the two uptown youths, who went missing on May 12, 2023, and whose bodies were found in the Harlem and Hudson Rivers—opposite sides of the city.

Speaking with the Amsterdam News, activist Kadiatou Diallo said that the family just wants to know what really happened. “We all unite when tragedies like this happen…The family is devastated. Alfa’s mother just keeps crying ‘my innocent baby.’”

On Saturday morning, May 20, 2023, the heartbreaking news was announced that a body recovered under the Madison Avenue Bridge over the Hudson River Saturday morning was 11-year-old Barrie, who had been missing for over a week. On Thursday, May 18, 2023, 13-year-old Warren’s body was recovered from the East River. Both boys were pronounced dead at the scene. 

They disappeared on May 12 and were reported missing by their families soon after.

They were last seen at a Harlem fish market at 143rd Street and Malcolm X Blvd. Published reports state that the boys climbed through a broken bridge close to the 145th Street Bridge. Another 13-year-old boy is said to have told police that the boys were playing by the shoreline, and Warren attempted to push Barrie into the water. 

The medical examiner determined that Warren died from accidental drowning. Barrie’s family is currently contemplating a second, independent autopsy. They are also pushing elected officials to encourage immigration services to grant an emergency visa for the drowned boy’s father, Abdoul Barrie of Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, at least one leading city official is rejecting news reports that the boys drowned after Warren pushed Barrie into the water and lost his own footing as they played by the river’s edge.

“The community is very upset about that,” Diallo told the Amsterdam News. “…I don’t want to confirm anything [until we know for sure].”

Family members told the Amsterdam News that when Alfa’s body was retrieved, “it was intact, except for a small mark beneath his left eye. It was not bloated at all.”

Multiple vigils were held for the boys throughout uptown, including a pair at Barrie’s middle school, Democracy Prep Harlem. The first was on Monday morning for both children, led by Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Assemblymember Inez E. Dickens. 

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of Garrett Warren and Alfa Barrie following this heartbreaking news that no parent should ever have to face,” said the electeds in a joint statement. “Our community embraces the families and friends of these two young men, and we pray for their strength and comfort during this time of grief.”

The second vigil was held for the Guinean/Sierra Leonian-American Barrie on Tuesday evening, May 23, where his family, friends, and classmates sent him off in unison with a loud “we love you, Alfa.” He was remembered as a “magical boy” with a penchant for engineering and dance. 

Democracy Prep New York Superintendent Emmanuel George said Barrie’s schoolmates—including the boy’s sister—are coming to terms with his passing. Classes were canceled last Friday, although the semester runs through June. Grief counseling is being provided, according to school officials. 

“They’re doing the best they can [with] getting in touch with their feelings [and] understanding this process of grief,” said George. “They’re craving normalcy. They’re doing the best they can, given what they’re experiencing.”

Street Corner Resources’ Iesha Sekou demanded the city look into fixing gaps in a park fence next to the Harlem River near where the two were last seen. The Harlem-based violence interrupter assisted the two families throughout the search. Police are still investigating how the boys got into the water.

“We have to make sure we don’t just let this happen in vain—that we celebrate Garrett [and] Alfa in the way to make change,” Sekou said. “We need to fix the places that are open that give children access…to play [and] do what regular kids do.”

Warren reportedly attended the Lower East Side’s New Explorations into Science, Technology, and Math (NEST+m), one of the city’s exclusive Gifted & Talented (G&T) middle schools. He lived in Harlem and is reportedly remembered as a science wiz, star athlete, and board game aficionado. Warren’s family told CBS News a memorial will be held for him next week. 

Diallo told the Amsterdam News, “The family wants clarity and closure. The only time we’ve got closure is when we’ve got clarity. The only time we get clarity is when we find out exactly, exactly, how did Alfa end up in the water…a guy with a strong determination and a good intention to be successful [will not for] fantasy reasons say, ‘I want to go play in the water.’ The question is; ‘How was he lured to follow those friends to go through that hole as the NYPD said—to go under the bridge?’”

Kadiatou Diallo, mother of the police-slain Amadou Diallo, said, “I know that the family is really anxious about knowing more about the details.”

About a third boy who came forward and claimed he was with them and saw Warren push Barrie in, she said, “Well, I don’t know what happened. This story keeps changing.”

Some people close to the case are saying that the boys were just wrestling and play-fighting.

“I don’t know if they have video [that] captured that scene, or is the boy just saying that,” said Kadiatou Diallo. “I don’t think that Alfa’s family know [Garrett]….The family have more questions. They have found comfort in the fact that the body was found, but they don’t have peace because they are wondering what happened to their boy. They have no answers right now.”

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Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting

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