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Drowning probe finished
Report says staff ‘acted appropriately’
Sunday, July 20, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Nothing in the report of the state’s investigation into the July 4 drowning of Kerion Jykeem Witcher indicates that Fairy Stone State Park staff acted improperly or that they could have changed the outcome.
That’s according to Gary Waugh, public relations manager at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
He said Friday that the DCR’s investigation into the drowning death has been completed and is being “looked at by our head of law enforcement.”
“Lifeguards acted appropriately and did everything they could ... ,” Waugh said.
He said recently that it appeared, from the investigation and time-stamped photographs, that after lifeguards were notified of the incident, Witcher was under water for about 17 minutes before he was pulled out.
However, some members of Witcher’s family have estimated he was under water 30 to 45 minutes in all, and they have criticized some lifeguards’ handling of the incident.
Waugh said the DCR will review procedures at Fairy Stone and will determine if any changes need to be made.
Witcher, 18, of Circle Drive, Martinsville, was found about 5 p.m. July 4 in about 15 feet of water at the park, according to a news release from the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office.
Waugh has said that time-stamped photos by an amateur photographer who was on the beach showed at 4:52 p.m. the beach was normal, at 4:55 p.m. the beach was being cleared and at 5:12 p.m. Witcher was brought out of the water. That indicates the lifeguards must have been notified between 4:52 and 4:55 p.m., Waugh added.
A swimmer found Witcher submerged and brought him to the surface, Waugh said recently. He added that lifeguards “engaged in pulling him (Witcher) to the shore.”
A news release from the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office said Witcher was pronounced dead at Pioneer Hospital in Stuart after being taken there by an ambulance from the Smith River Rescue Squad.
Witcher had recently graduated from Martinsville High School and was scheduled to enter the Army in September.