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They were relatives by chance but best of friends by choice — lifelong buddies who played on the streets of Brooklyn together as children and then worked together as young adults.
But 19-year-old Domenico Coluccio, 18-year-old Anthony Dupont and 20-year-old Carlo Milito all died together Sunday in a tragic accident in an out-of-the-way lake in rural upstate New York.
Today, residents of Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights are mourning together, trying to come to grips with the deaths of these young men, while honoring their families — all neighborhood business people who have dedicated their lives to serving the community.
Friends and family members said that Coluccio, Dupont, Milito and 20-year-old Gianfranco Generoso were fishing together on Mountain Lake in Smallwood, NY, Sunday afternoon when their boat capsized, sending all of them tumbling into the water.
Out of the four, only Generoso, a graduate of Xaverian High School, managed to get ashore.
According to published reports, after a witness helped Generoso get to dry land, he immediately turned to the water and cried out to his friends, who fell under the waves and never resurfaced.
By Sunday night, rescue teams recovered Coluccio and Dupont’s bodies from the frigid water. Milito was found the next morning as his mother Rosaria uttered heart-wrenching sobs at the water’s edge.
Investigators believe that the boat capsized when one of the four men, none of whom were wearing life preservers, stood up.
The heavy, now water-logged clothes they were wearing made it all the more difficult to swim to shore, officials said.
On Monday, a day after the three young men drowned, the families’ businesses – Coluccio and Sons Italian Grocery and Deli at 1280 60th Street, the Royal Crown Magnifico Café at 6314 14th Avenue and the Royal Crown Bakery, 6512 14th Avenue, which are both owned by Generoso’s family – were left shuttered.
The only indication that there was a problem was a small sign affixed to the security shutters with masking tape, reading “Closed due to family emergency.”
“This is totally unexpected,” said Alex Ibragimov, the owner of the Full Dream Salon, which is right next to the Royal Crown Bakery. “How does something like this happen?”
Merchants along that swath of 14th Avenue said that the Generoso family has been a community staple for decades. Dupont, Generoso’s cousin, worked at one of the family’s many restaurants as he attended classes at Kingsborough Community College they said.
“They (the Generoso family) are very nice people,” said a worker at an industrial glazier shop on the other side of the family’s small neighborhood bakery. “I was so sorry to hear what happened.”
Over at Coluccio and Sons, a group of elderly neighborhood residents flocked to console Coluccio’s weeping cousin, who was too bereaved to talk to reporters.
Just like on 14th Avenue, mourners found the security gates at Coluccio and Sons drawn shut; a small sign reading “Closed due to death in family” warding everyone away.
Neighbors said that they remembered Domenico, the family’s youngest, who worked at the business that his grandfather started decades ago.
Domenico’s grief-stricken grandmother still lives in the neighborhood just a few blocks away, they said.
“He (Domenico) was a lovely boy,” one elderly resident recalled.
“Everyone is heartbroken over what happened,” explained Assemblymember Peter Abbate, who has shopped in Collucio’s store for years. “This is a really close-knit family. Everyone is in total shock.”
“It’s sad to hear about something like this, and then realize that it hits so close to home,” he said.
While not an actual blood relative, Coluccio was easily embraced by Dupont, Milito and Generoso, all cousins, neighbors said.
As news of the tragedy spread, residents throughout Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge tried to come to terms with the deaths of the three young men.
“We started the school day with a prayer for all four boys,” explained Robert Oliva, alumni director for Xaverian High School.
While Milito, Dupont and Coluccio did not attend the Bay Ridge school, they were all part of “the community that extends past these walls,” Oliva said.
“Their families have been very generous to Xaverian,” he said. “For years, Royal Crown has provided the bread for our Thanksgiving community dinner. We have a wonderful relationship with these boys, as well as their families.”
As this paper went to press, services for all three young men were scheduled to be held at Aievoli Ralph & Son Funeral Home, 1275 65th Street, this Wednesday and Thursday.
Funerals for Milito and Dupont will be held Friday morning, 9:30 a.m. at Regina Pacis Church, 1230 65th Street. A funeral service for Caluccio will be held at St. Bernadette’s, 8201 13th Avenue, at 10 a.m.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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