Five People Drowned During First Week In July

By: KDWPT Press Release/Chelsey Moran
By: KDWPT Press Release/Chelsey Moran

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)--Five people drowned in Kansas waters during the first week of July, four of them during the 4th of July holiday.

13 people have been fatally injured or drowned in Kansas lakes, ponds and rivers so far this year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly half of all drowning in the United States occur in natural water settings.

Nine of the 13 incidents happened when the victims were swimming or wading in the water. The Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism investigates boating accidents.

The 13 victims include:
George Willenberg, 38, Hoisington, died July 6 at Wilson Reservoir while trying to swim across a cove in the Rock Town area after the boat he was on had mechanical problems.

Oscar N. Rodriguez-Vargas, 29, Wichita, died July 5 at El Dorado Reservoir when he stepped from shallow water into deeper water while wading to a boat drifting offshore.

Tommy Watt, 15, Clay Center, drowned July 5 while swimming in a private farm pond near Longford in Clay County.

Khai Pu, 27, Thailand, drowned July 4 while swimming at the Hillsdale State Park swim beach in Miami County.

Blake Chavez, 24, Oswego, died July 1 when he fell into the Neosho River below the Oswego dam.

Marcus Marqaiz Hutton, 19, Wichita, died June 29 at Cheney Reservoir while swimming with friends after he helped another struggling swimmer to safety.

James Struthers, 47, Junction City, died June 28 after falling from a boat near the city of Milford boat ramp.

Derek Wheeler, 18, Salina, died June 11 at Kanopolis Reservoir after his kayak capsized.

Nicolas Frazer, 14, Centralia, was fatally injured June 10 at Centralia City Lake when he was thrown from an inner tube being pulled behind a boat. He was wearing a life jacket, and was later pronounced dead at Nemaha Valley Community Hospital in Seneca.

John Freeman, III, 40, Lyons died June 8 at Kanopolis Reservoir while swimming near his campsite.

Travis Webb, 14, Haysville, drowned May 27 at Wellington City Lake while wading with friends.

Vincent Rice, 37, Melvern, drowned May 26 at Melvern Reservoir while scuba diving in the area of the Coeur D’Alene swimming beach.

Robert Duff, Jr., 2, fell from a boat and was airlifted to a Topeka hospital where he passed away June 2.

Drowning incidents may be prevented with a few simple precautions according to Maj. Dan Hesket, KDWPT Boating Law Administrator.

Wear a life jacket at all times.
Kansas law requires that all boats have one Type I, Type II, Type III, or Type V PFD of proper size, in serviceable condition, not in an enclosed compartment and readily accessible for each person on board. Anyone 12-years-old and younger must wear a life jacket at all times when on board a boat. KDWPT strongly recommends that everyone wear a life jacket at all times when boating or swimming.

Swim and wade with caution.
Lakes and rivers aren’t swimming pools and shouldn’t be treated as such. Kansas lakes have wind, waves, underwater obstacles, sudden drop-offs and soft bottoms. Rivers can have deceptively strong currents. Many Kansas lakes also have currents because they were built by flooding a river channel. Also, most Kansas lakes are murky, making it nearly impossible to quickly locate someone who has slipped beneath the surface.

Don’t dive into a lake since you can’t see the water depth or underwater debris.

Know your limitations.
Many people over estimate their ability to swim in open water. No one is drown-proof, no matter how much training or experience they have. Swimming in a lake is strenuous, and even strong swimmers can quickly become fatigued, disoriented, or overwhelmed by wind, waves and currents. Be particularly cautious if you have underlying medical issues or take medications that could impair your abilities.
Don’t swim at night and don’t swim alone. No one can see you if you get into trouble.

Avoid horseplay and risk-taking.
Practical jokes or childish challenges like breath-holding contests have no place while swimming or boating. Most drownings in the U.S. happen to males – possibly because they may be more inclined to take risks than females.

Avoid alcohol and other drugs. In addition to impairing a person’s judgment about lake conditions, alcohol increases the likelihood a swimmer will tire or become disoriented, hyperventilate, or gasp involuntarily.

Designate a lookout
Unlike the local swimming pool, there are no lifeguards on duty on Kansas waters, so it’s a good idea to designate someone who can sound the alarm and respond appropriately if a swimmer gets into trouble. Rescuers should not attempt to approach a person struggling to stay afloat unless they are trained to do so. Even strong swimmers can drown trying to help others. Instead, stay on the boat or dock and extend a pole, oar, stick, rope, or clothing to reach the victim or throw something floatable to them.

Learn cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
You could save someone’s life in the time it takes for emergency responders to arrive at a rural location.


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