Friends explain how 26-year-old man drowns at Sand Hollow

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.

Authorities remove the body of a 26-year-old drowning victim at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah, July 22, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Authorities remove the body of a 26-year-old drowning victim at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah, July 22, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

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 26-year-old Colorado City, Arizona man drowned at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah, July 22, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
A 26-year-old Colorado City, Arizona man drowned at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah, July 22, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

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.”

A 26-year-old Colorado City, Arizona man drowned at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah, July 22, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
A 26-year-old Colorado City, Arizona man drowned at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah, July 22, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

“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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Email: kscott@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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8 Comments

  • fun bag July 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    how could u not notice ur friend gone in the water so long? great friends huh? were they drinking? smoking dope? i guess don’t ever put plyg kids on lifeguard duty…

    • Brian July 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Give them a break. He headed to shore and was almost there, and they thought he made it. You babysit all of your 20+ year old friends, all the time? That must be tiring.

      • ladybugavenger July 23, 2015 at 8:44 pm

        I’m paranoid like that, so I don’t have friends to babysit, its easier that way! 😉

  • Bender July 23, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    I see in the news a shocking number of Short Creek kids involved in fatal accidents. Far in excess of what their numbers warrant. My opinion is that these kids, once cut loose from their insular community, are dangerously ill equipped to function in society. They had no schooling and no contact with those outside their cult. Drop them in with the rest of us, remove any inhibitions, and they do all kinds of stupid things most of the rest of us have learned to stay away from. Warren Jeff’s Short Creek is a festering wound that will damage a lot of people for a long time.

    • fun bag July 23, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Yeah, the state of Utah let them polygamists rape those little girls up there in Plygville for a very long time. It finally took the state of texas to prosecute and lock up the pedophile mormon prophet jeffs. kind of makes you wonder about the folks runnin’ this state dudn’t it…

  • Lastdays July 23, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Hard to swim in long pants and long sleeve shirt. Just saying

  • Tyler Durden July 23, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    This story is written horribly. Someone needs to go back to school and do “SOME LEARNIN.”

    Review “Reporting For the Media” Ninth Edition pg. 242-244.
    “Reporters who merely decorate their stories with quotations are not using them effectively”

    “Direct quotations should illustrate a point, not tell an entire story. Stories composed entirely of quotations seem poorly organized because they lack natural transitions”

  • Free Parking July 24, 2015 at 3:57 am

    . Nobody made him go in the water

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