SAND HOLLOW STATE PARK — A 26-year-old Colorado City, Arizona, man died in a drowning accident Wednesday while attempting to swim to the shore of Sand Hollow Reservoir. St. George News spoke with three of the men the 26-year-old had spent the afternoon swimming and boating with.
It was supposed to be a day of fun. The group, consisting of the 26-year-old, four of his male friends and his sister, arrived at the park early Wednesday afternoon to spend the day boating on the reservoir, with plans to return home that evening.
What the group didn’t realize at the time is that, at some point in the day, they would be fighting to save the life of their friend, and returning home with one less person than they had arrived with.
“We were right in the northwest corner over there, not quite that far, we were just right on the side of the rocks,” the 26-year-old’s friend said. “He jumped off the boat and headed to the shore and he was almost there.”
It was around 6 p.m., when the friend said he watched as the man swam in flip flops and with no life jacket towards the shore.
“When he was almost to the shore,” he said, “then I jumped off on the other side of the boat. I’m guessing the wind was blowing against him and must have tired him or somethin’ before he got to shore.”
It was about 15-20 minutes later when the group of friends became concerned that something wasn’t right, Sand Hollow State Park Manager Laura Melling said.
“They realized nobody had seen him for a while and they started looking – looking for him.,” she said.
“He was probably 45 minutes in the water,” the friend said. “But we didn’t know he was in the water that’s why – these guys would have got way more aggressive about just getting in there right before that, other than, they thought he’d come up here (to the shore).”
Even when we were swimming around lookin’ for him, it wasn’t – I mean, it was almost – yeah, we were lookin’ for him because that’s what we needed to do right there but we were almost sure that he was up here (on the shore) rather than down there.
The group located the man in the water at around 6:45 p.m., Melling said, and pulled him into the boat. He was unresponsive.
A woman with some medical training rode over to the group on a jet ski, Melling said. She jumped on the boat and assisted in performing CPR on the man.
“There was a lady that, on shore, noticed there was a problem,” the friend said. “She came over on a jet ski and jumped in the boat. I had asked her right before that – I asked her if she’d saw somebody out there swimming. They knew we were lookin’ for somebody and she noticed there was a problem, and she came and started helping, and we drove over to the dock.”
“Well, she saw us panicking,” a second friend said, “noticed, and then saw us pull him out, and she cruised over there.”
“I don’t know who she was,” the first friend said, “but she was a really awesome person.”
“We hadn’t even gotten him into the boat when she jumped on it,” the second friend said. “We laid him down and she started doing CPR and then we took turns – him and her and me. We did (CPR) on the boat and then, as soon as we got to the dock, we put him on the dock. It was probably 10 minutes ‘til the paramedics got here, then they took over and they did it for another 5 minutes probably.”
A park ranger and Hurricane Valley Fire and Ambulance helped with CPR but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and the man was confirmed dead by emergency responders at the scene.
“He was one of the most decent people you’ll ever meet,” the first friend said.
There is no indication that any of the individuals in the group were impaired in any way, Melling said.
“Sometimes tragedies happen even when you do everything right,” she said. “Always let somebody know where you go, don’t swim beyond your abilities and I can never stress enough, wear a life vest. If you’ve got a life vest on and you get in trouble, you will float.”
Melling said this was the first accident at Sand Hollow in the last five years, adding that the last incident occurred on the sand rather than in the water.
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