Tragedy Strikes Military Family At Milford Lake

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GEARY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A family outing on Milford Lake took a tragic turn when a two-year-old child fell out of a boat and into the water, his parents plunging in after him to save him. The toddler was airlifted to a Topeka hospital and passed away.

On Saturday, May 18, 2013, around 3:30 PM, the Geary County Sheriff's Department received a call about a capsized boat on Milford Lake, a popular destination for families and those who enjoy the outdoors.

While deputies were in route, more information came in from the scene and authorities learned that the boat had not actually capsized but a two-year-old boy, Robert Duff Jr., had fallen from the boat.

Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf says the child was out on the lake with his mother, father, and five-year-old sister when he went overboard.

"The mother and father jumped in to save the child and then the boat drifted away from them. They were able to locate Robert and at that time, the family members were picked up out of the water by some passersby and taken up to Wakefield to the marina up there. Clay County EMS responded and started to treat the child," Sheriff Wolf said.

Personnel from the military marina went out and collected the family’s rental boat, finding the couple's five-year-old daughter safe inside the boat.

Robert Duff Jr. was unresponsive when he was rescued. He was transported to Geary Community Hospital by Junction City Fire & EMS and then airlifted to Stormont-Vail.

"Late in the evening on Saturday or early Sunday morning, the child was pronounced dead," the sheriff said.

He identified the Duff family as a military family from Wakefield, KS and said Robert's father is an active duty Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley.

When asked if the toddler was wearing a life vest at the time he went into the water, Sheriff Wolf declined to comment, telling WIBW that the incident is being investigated by Kansas Wildlife & Parks as an accident. The Geary County Sheriff's Department is assisting them in the matter.

Under the state statute, anyone under the age of 13 on a boat is required to wear a life vest.

"This is a horrible situation for any family to bear. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family right now and hopefully they can get through this," Sheriff Wolf added.

The drowning at Milford Lake comes on the heels of another tragic incident involving a Fort Riley family at a pool in Topeka.

On Friday, May 10, 2013, Dalton Register, 12, from Fort Riley, was pulled, unresponsive from the swimming pool at the Ramada West Hotel in Topeka.

People on the scene administered CPR until emergency responders arrived. Several days later, Topeka Police confirmed that the young boy had passed away.

Fort Riley officials confirmed that Dalton was the son of a Fort Riley soldier.

A private family ceremony was held in Alabama last week.