Teen Dies in Lake

Victim believed to have drowned

Morgantown Dominion Post
18 July 2012
By Cassie Shaner

A teenage boy died Tuesday afternoon while swimming in Cheat Lake with family and friends. The group was swimming under the Interstate 68 bridge that crosses the lake.

The Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department did not identify the boy, 16, of Point Marion, Pa., on Tuesday. According to a press release, his identity is being withheld to allow the family to make proper notification.

The boy’s brother, Josh Williams, 29, said they had just arrived and were swimming toward the closest pier when he looked back and saw his brother going under the water.

Williams said he and a friend swam to the boy and tried to keep his head above water. Williams started “taking on water,” left his brother with his friend and swam back to the rocky shoreline under the bridge to call 911.

“By the time I got back to the guardrail, I didn’t see him no more,” Williams said, fighting back tears.

“It happened so fast.”

A volunteer firefighter estimated the water’s depth at 15 feet, perhaps slightly deeper by the pier.

Three other boys appeared to have been swimming with Williams and his friend. They watched the search from the pier before being brought back to shore by Monongalia EMS.

Williams, his friend and the three boys were all visibly upset. Williams’ friend angrily struck the guardrail along W.Va. 857 while watching the search.

He declined to describe what happened, saying simply, “My buddy drowned.”

Family members and friends arrived throughout the afternoon. “Oh, my God,” one woman shouted, as she hugged one of the boys. Another woman yelled at Williams and the other swimmers.

“He should have never been allowed in the [lake],” she said. “I’ve told you all summer.”

After calming down, she sat quietly with other family members and watched the search.

The sheriff ’s department said the death is believed to be accidential and no foul play is suspected.

The drowning was reported to MECCA 911 at 1:38 p.m. Police, fire and EMS officials spent more than four hours searching the water by boat.

Emergency radio traffic indicated that the boy’s body was found at about 6 p.m., just after lightning was reported within a 15-mile radius. Emergency workers removed his body from the lake before the feared storm arrived, pulling him out at Sunset Beach Marina.

Monongalia EMS dragged the water with a pole until divers from the Morgantown police and fire departments arrived. A few recreational boaters appeared to be searching the water, too, before other emergency vessels arrived.

The Granville Volunteer Fire Department used its VideoRay — a submersible robotic device with a camera — to search the murky water, which seemed to be moving slowly.

The Cheat Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Point Marion (Pa.) Volunteer Fire Co. assisted, the latter with a rescue boat. The state Division of Natural Resources and the Monongalia County Medical Examiner’s Office assisted, as well.

Tuesday’s incident was the second drowning in the area this year, but the first since 2010 involving a swimmer.

Fred McCauley, 62, is believed to have fallen into the Monongahela River while fishing at Edith B. Barill Riverfront Park on Feb. 28. His body was found June 7 by two people fishing from a boat just north of Point Marion Borough, in Fayette County, Pa.

The last swimmer who drowned was Tyler James Murphy, 21, of Morgantown. His body was found more than four hours after he went under water while swimming in the Cobun Creek Reservoir, in June 2010.