Two dead in Fourth of July drownings

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-05 20:28:00-04

During a time of celebration, multiple families across the state are grieving after two drownings and another near drowning.

Tuesday, a 23-year-old Milwaukee man drowned in DeNeveu Lake after having a medical incident. In Racine, a 14-year-old boy died when he and his friends were swimming in the Root River.

"At one point, they were all in the water and struggling to get out," said Racine Fire Department Battalion Chief Willie Hargrove. "They all three felt like they were drowning. Two were able to get out and one wasn't."

Hargrove says there wasn't a terribly strong current but a large drop off from the shore to the middle of the lake. He doesn't believe new storm drains lead to any sort of suction that could have caused the boy to drown.

From the time the fire department was called until they pulled the boy from the river, less than 15 minutes transpired, but it was too late.

About five hours later, another tragic call after a 7-year-old boy slipped off of the rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan near Pershing Park.

"He was just up on the rocks," Hargrove said. "This time of year, Fourth of July, fireworks at the lake, people park there and sit on the rocks. He got on the edge of the rocks and fell into the lake."

From the time they were called in this situation, they got the boy out in less than 10 minutes thanks in large part to what he was wearing on his feet.

"He happened to have on shoes that a lot of young kids wear with the lights on them," Hargrove said. "So when our divers got into the water, they immediately saw the lights."

The boy initially didn't have a pulse but medical staff revived him at the hospital. His condition is unknown.

For those in Racine, the tragedies on the water were a good time to remind their own little ones of the dangers of being on the water.

"I can't imagine being a parent and losing a child," said Sheryle Curdas of Racine. "I don't understand why they don't offer better swim lessons for children."

Curdas was enjoying the warm day with her grandchildren at a splash pad near Pershing Park. While the splash pad is a safe place for the kids to cool off, she knows the bodies of water around the city are something she needs to educate her grandchildren about.

"It looks like fun but it can be deadly," Curdas said. "Never trust the water and be very careful. Even if it's up to your ankles or knees, it can be dangerous."

Justin Richtmyre of Racine felt the same way.

"It's a huge concern because the kids don't realize that water can grab them," Richtmyre said. "I already put life vests on them. I watch them to the best of my ability. Keeping an eye on them is the best thing I can do. They're at an age when it's hard to instill that in them."

Hargrove says water safety is an important educational tool for everyone but especially in Racine.

"We have so much water here," Hargrove said. "Retention ponds and various parks and things like that. It's really paramount, people take time to make sure our children learn how to swim and they understand water safety."

Hargrove says to never go swimming alone and when swimming with a buddy, make sure you are swimming with someone who can in fact swim. He says people frequently will wade into the Root River in town but he says to make sure to swim in places that are safer to swim in like beaches with lifeguards present.

But he knows the dangers aren't just in water made by Mother Nature.

"Water safety is huge and people have accidents and drown in their pools at home," Hargrove said. "You don't have to worry about rip currents and things there. Be safe. If you're not a strong swimmer, it's ok to put on a little life jacket. Better to be safe than sorry."