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Teens were like brothers, families said

Modesto Fuentes, father of Eduardo Vanegas-Fuentes, reflects on

Modesto Fuentes, father of Eduardo Vanegas-Fuentes, reflects on his son's life at his Holtsville home. (June 2, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

Brotherhood defined the lives of the two teenagers who died when they fell in a backyard cesspool in Farmingville, their families said Thursday.

Edgar Calderon-Castro, 19, would wrestle and play-fight with his dad until the older man said uncle. Eduardo Vanegas-Fuentes, 16, an avid soccer player, would kick around the ball with his 9-year-old brother, Jair.

On Thursday, the teens' families and friends were mourning the sudden deaths, which occurred after Vanegas-Fuentes fell into the cesspool and Calderon-Castro jumped in to try to rescue him.

"We were like brothers -- always together," said Samuel Suarez, also 16, who watched the accident unfold in his backyard.

At Vanegas-Fuentes' Holtsville home, his mother, Marta Vanegas, 39, sobbed as she sat on her son Eduardo's bottom-bunk bed -- a bed she'd made hours before the accident.

Sitting above his mother, Jair said he wasn't quite sure what he'd do without his brother as a roommate.

"He always plays with me," he said.

Eduardo, his parents said, was saving his allowance to buy a Jetta.

The parents of Calderon-Castro, standing on the lawn of their Farmingville home, said he had begun to learn masonry.

"When he'd play with me he'd always win," said his father, Santiago Calderon, 50, a construction worker. "He'd tell me all the time, 'Dad. I won it. You never beat me.' He was big and strong."

Sachem High School East Principal Rory Manning said it was a somber day in the classrooms where, just the day before, Vanegas was in attendance.

Both young men, he said, were part of the same close-knit group of students -- many of them emigrants from Central and South America -- who are part of the school's English as a Second Language program.

"That's really what made it such a difficult day here, how close and almost like a family they were to their friends," Manning said.

Calderon-Castro had attended the program and had moved to night classes for older students who are missing credits to graduate or are balancing school and work. But he had dropped out of the program earlier this year.

Vanegas, a sophomore, had struggled academically in the beginning of high school but "had made a recent turnaround," Manning said. He'd said he wanted to go to college.

The school is planning a fundraiser to help the family with funeral costs, the principal said.

With William Murphy

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