Cedar City man drowns while saving son at Otter Creek Reservoir

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.

Email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • Melanie June 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Joyce- you need to have someone besides yourself proof-read your articles. It never fails that when I read a St George News article that makes absolutely no sense because of the terrible writing it turns out to be written by you. Also, you need to check your facts before you publish. You have this poor man’s name spelled wrong!

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic June 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      Name spelling correction made, it was a sourcing error. Piute Sheriff’s office has it as Gunter, not Guntner. Our apologies to the family.

    • Preston June 14, 2013 at 1:35 am

      Haha I agree with you Melanie

  • Kathy June 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Tragic story.
    And Joyce…I think you’re doing a great job.

  • Mean momma June 14, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Having a picture of a life saving device as the cover photo on an article about someone drowning just seems mean spirited to me. Just sayin.

    • My Evil Twin June 14, 2013 at 8:51 am

      Oh give me a break here. The only mean spirited thing here is your comment. This is a tragic event, and one that just might have been prevented if life saving devices had been available. I’m sure that everyone involved in this tragedy will go through life, sick at heart, realizing that.

  • tom June 14, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I see two tragedies here. The first and foremost being that this young man died so young. He is a son, husband and father. Many people are going through an unimaginable situation. My heart goes out to everyone involved. Especially the four children who lost their father.
    The second tragedy I see is the people commenting on this sad story are not one bit concerned about this man or his family. When did everyone become so callous and insensitive? I hope this family receives alot more respect regarding this situation from now on.Again, my thoughts and prayers are with this family.

  • Joanna June 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    How dreadful. We were out at Quail Res. last week and the lake patrol came out to let our friends know they needed to put on life jackets before going on the water, which we appreciated. Hopefully the efforts of the patrol will prevent terrible tragedies in the future. So sorry for this family.

    • JP June 15, 2013 at 2:56 am

      Why does the lake patrol have to tell one to wear life jackets??? PLEASE just wear them!!!! Tragic tragic accident so sad for the wife and children.

  • Char September 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    What a sad and horrific experience for that family! I’ve jumped off a boat on the Colorado after my favorite hat into cold water. I’m an excellent swimmer and the cold just sucks the breath out of you. I didn’t think I was going to make it back to the boat either. God bless this father for his heroic act to save his son! I pray for his wife and children. I also pray for tolerance and mercy for those with such harsh words and judgement. A child reacted in honor of his grandmother. A father”s instinct to protect his child…..and you pass blame to tragedy. Shame on you!

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