PIUTE COUNTY, Utah – A family camping trip turned tragic Wednesday when a 35-year-old Cedar City man lost his life at Otter Creek Reservoir in Piute County while providing aid to his son.
Jeremy William Gunter was camping with his wife and four children, and his wife’s parents, at Otter Creek State Park.
His in-laws had brought a small fishing boat, Park Manager Bob Hanover said, and the family decided to go out on the boat for a little while. They were about 50 yards from shore when the wind blew the mother’s hat off, he said. Gunter’s 12-year-old son jumped in to get the hat and, when he started having difficulty, Gunter went in after him.
“Witness reports say the father was able to get to his son and push him very hard to the boat so he could get close enough to get to it,” Hanover said, “he then went under somehow and did not resurface.”
A park ranger who lives a few miles up from the lake was alerted with a knock on the door right at 4 p.m., Hanover said, and was in his boat motoring to the scene by 4:12 p.m.
According to its press release, Piute County Sheriff’s office also responded to the call of two people overboard at fisherman beach at the reservoir, as did multiple agencies, and the body was retrieved about 8:20 p.m. – some 40-50 yards away, by Hanover’s estimation, from the buoy first placed to identify the location at which he had last been seen.
The water was 64 degrees and temperatures outside at Otter Creek were in the 80s. It was a breezy day.
“That cold water will immediately cause your body to tighten up, and draw heat from your brain,” Hanover said. Although he did not know the official findings of cause of death or the fitness or condition of either Gunter or his son, or even whether or not they could swim well, he said that in past drownings in state parks, the colder the water the quicker the body shuts down and is unable to respond.
Hanover said there were no life preservers on the boat or in use at the time.
Emergency responders came from several counties to assist, including Sevier, Sanpete and Washington County Sheriffs’ search and rescue teams. Hanover said that Utah Highway Patrol, K-9 teams, local rescue dive teams also responded, among others.
No citations were issued yesterday, for example for lack of personal flotation devices, in connection with the incident, Hanover said. Piute County Sheriff Marty Gleave, the primary on the matter, was unavailable to address the investigation or to confirm findings on the official cause of death.
Ed. note: Our apologies to the family, the name of the victim has been corrected to conform to the Pitue County Sheriff’s release. Sourcing error.
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