Junction City Man Drowns At Milford Lake

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

GEARY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Authorities have recovered the body of a Junction City man at Milford Lake, several days after he fell into the water and drowned.

Officials say James Struthers, 47, was out on a friend’s boat with his wife Friday night when things took a dangerous and deadly turn.

At 10:15 PM on June 28, 2013, the Geary County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call reporting that Struthers had fallen from the boat near the city of Milford’s boat ramp and never resurfaced.

Deputies from the Geary County Sheriff’s Department and members of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Milford Corps of Engineers all converged in the area and began an extensive search of the lake using boats with side scan sonar, an enhanced imaging system for underwater searches.

The search continued all weekend and at 7:20 AM on Monday, July 1, 2013, Struthers’ body was located by authorities floating in the water approximately ¾ mile southeast of the Milford City boat ramp (in an area commonly referred to as "Nudie Beach").

"The searched picked up the next morning, Saturday morning, about dawn and the search continued all day long until dark and then Sunday, the search continued. The guys were out here searching really hard for this individual and then this morning about twenty after seven, we received a call from Wildlife and Parks that they had located the body of the individual," Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf said.

Struthers' remains were located along the beach roughly a mile from where he fell into the water.

Officials declined to discuss what they believed happened on the boat when Struthers went overboard but they tell WIBW that there were no obvious signs of trauma to his body. An autopsy will be performed.

The incident is being investigated as an accident by the Geary County Sheriff’s Department and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Struthers was not wearing a life jacket when he drowned. Sheriff Wolf declined to comment on whether or not Struthers could swim.

Alcohol was a contributing factor in the accidental drowning, the sheriff said.

Arrest records from the weekend indicate that Brandon Nichols of Wakefield was arrested at Milford Lake Friday night for Boating Under the Influence. Sources say he was the man driving the boat that Struthers and his wife were in.

This is the second drowning at Milford Lake in recent months.

In May, a family outing 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.

Robert Duff Jr. was out on the lake with his mother, father, and five-year-old sister when he went overboard.

His mother and father jumped in to save their child but their rental boat drifted away from them. They were able to locate Robert and were picked up out of the water by some passersby.
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The toddler was unresponsive when he was rescued. He was transported to Geary Community Hospital by Junction City Fire & EMS and then airlifted to Stormont-Vail where he passed away. Officials identified the Duff family as a military family from Wakefield, KS. Robert's father is an active duty Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley.

Sheriff Wolf encourages all lake goers to practice safe and responsible boating, especially this July 4th. Milford Lake is a popular destination for families and those who love the water and outdoors.

"It is absolutely paramount that when you do get on the water, have life jackets and wear them. If you have them, wear them. There are markings everywhere to remind people when they come to the lake to be safe and wear your life jackets. It does you absolutely no good if it's laying in the boat. By the time you need it, it's too late. Be aware of your surroundings- look out for yourself and look out for other boaters," he said.

"You have to be careful and know where everybody is and absolutely have a good time but still keep safety in mind. This is the second drowning thus far and I don't want to see a third."


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