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Cops in river deaths ‘saved two’ lives: Family friend

Floral tributes and letters of sympathy at the site where two Aboriginal boys jumped into the water after being chased by police on Monday, then drowned.

Floral tributes and letters of sympathy at the site where two Aboriginal boys jumped into the water after being chased by police on Monday, then drowned. Photo: AAP

Far from being to blame for the death of two boys who drowned in Perth’s Swan River, the police officers who chased them there probably saved the lives of two other teens who also jumped in the water, a close friend says.

Trisjack Simpson, 17, and Chris Drage, 16, were among five boys police pursued on foot following reports of teenagers jumping fences after a house had been ransacked in Maylands on Monday afternoon.

Four of them jumped into the water and two were grabbed by officers, but Trisjack and Chris were seen struggling in the middle of the river and did not resurface.

Christopher Drage, the father of Chris, told reporters on Wednesday he did not blame the officers and we all make silly mistakes as kids.

A police boat is towed from the Maylands boat ramp after a search on the Swan River on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

Trisjack’s grandfather James Spratt made similar comments, saying the boys made an error that cost them their lives.

“I’m quite proud of Chris and the grandfather for saying they don’t hold animosity,” Aboriginal advocate Mervyn Eades told AAP on Thursday.

“This is a great move forward to start building that good relationship with the police department,” Mr Eades said.

“From a community aspect, we need to do it so our people might not feel so scared and the police might interact.

“It could be a groundswell turning point for relations.”

Mr Eades, who has been friends with Mr Drage since they were children, said the Deaths In Custody group held an emergency meeting about the tragedy on Wednesday night and some people wanted to arrange a snap rally.

But the families disagreed, saying they felt no anger towards the officers.

Mr Eades said video footage taken by a man in an apartment overlooking the river showed the two officers in the water had to make a choice and grabbed the boys who were closest to them.

“By grabbing hold of them, the probably actually saved their lives,” Mr Eades said, adding Mr Drage felt the same way.

Mourners continue to pay their respects at the riverside site where the boys ran into the water.

A tree that Mr Drage draped in an Aboriginal flag has been surrounded with flowers and sympathy cards.

A woman who didn’t know the boys but wanted to lay down her own bunch told AAP she “had to come”.

“I’ve been feeling sad all the time for these poor little boys,” she said.

“Too many people say they deserve it. Jumping a fence should not be a death sentence.

“I’d rather these boys go to jail, be rehabilitated and then come out.”

A memorial will be held for Chris and Trisjack at the site on Saturday and the families want it to be a peaceful event that honours the boys, Mr Eades said.

-AAP

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