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Lake death called tragic
MHS graduate presumed to have drowned at Fairy Stone

Sunday, July 6, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The apparent drowning death Friday of a recent Martinsville High School graduate at Fairy Stone State Park was a “tragic accident,” according to Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith.

Kerion Jykeem Witcher, 18, of Circle Drive, was found around 5 p.m. by lifeguards in about 15 feet of water, a Patrick County Sheriff’s Office release stated.

Smith said Saturday that foul play was not suspected in Witcher’s death but the investigation is continuing.

The beach area of the park closed after the incident on Friday and will reopen Monday, according to Gary Waugh, public relations manager for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The closing will allow a trauma team to be available through the weekend to lifeguards and other park staff who were traumatized by the experience, he added.

Waugh said Saturday that the state medical examiner will determine the cause of death, though it is assumed to be drowning.

Witcher was spotted Friday afternoon swimming toward the diving platform at the park when he went under water, Waugh said. There was no splashing or signs of distress, he added.

Several swimmers at the park noticed that Witcher did not immediately surface. The swimmers and lifeguards began to search for Witcher, and one of the swimmers found him submerged, Waugh said.

The lifeguards pulled Witcher from the water and began to administer CPR with the help of several nurses who were visiting the park that day, Waugh said.

An ambulance from Smith River Rescue Squad arrived and took Witcher to Pioneer Hospital in Stuart.

Witcher was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to the sheriff’s office release.

Waugh said that he cannot recall another drowning at Fairy Stone State Park in the last 25 years.

Witcher was a three-sport athlete at Martinsville High School, according to football coach Orion Martin: football in the fall, wrestling in the winter and baseball in the spring.

Martin said that though he only coached Witcher for a year, he always was impressed with the young man.

“He was a great kid,” Martin said. “Well-mannered, clean-cut and a hard worker. He got along well with his teammates and classmates. One word to sum him up would be ‘solid.’ He was a solid person.”

On the football field, Martin said, Witcher was a natural leader who practiced hard “and gave you everything he’s got.”

Witcher graduated from MHS in June. Martin said that he knew Witcher would have excelled in college, but Witcher had decided to join the Army. He was scheduled to enter the Army in September, Martin added.

“He had a lot of aspirations and dreams in life,” Martin said. “He will definitely be missed.”


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