Lake Tapps is a dangerous place.
The Bonney Lake community is reminded of that today as it mourns the drowning death of Quentin Boggan, a 16-year-old who just finished his freshman year Thursday at Bonney Lake High School.
Quentin played football at the school, but he was a huge basketball fan, according to his Facebook site. He liked Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Kevin Garnett and the Celtics, the newly crowned champion Miami Heat, and like many sports fans he loved Sportscenter.
But on Thursday he went to Allan Yorke Park, just like hundreds of other youngsters in the Sumner district who had just finished the last half-day of school and wanted to enjoy the 75-degree temperatures.
Quentin was swimming with friends when he went underwater, reportedly for between three and five minutes. Bystanders rescued him and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
East Pierce Fire and Rescue arrived and revived a pulse. Quentin was then taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Tacoma where he died.
Ironically, not far from where the tragedy occurred is a shed where people can borrow life jackets for free. Also, the police department’s patrol boat is docked next to that.
Water tragedies common
Unfortunately, such tragedies are not uncommon on Lake Tapps.
“It is a rare year that we don’t have at least one or two drownings,” Russ McCallion, assistant chief of East Pierce Fire and Rescue, said, adding Lake Tapps is the fourth-largest recreational lake in the state.
He refused to specifically talk about Thursday’s drowning, except to say, ”Our hearts go out to the family.” But he did want to talk about water safety in general and remind everyone that accidents can occur at any time.
“There were 100 to 200 people on that berm” on the lake, he said. “So whether you’re by yourself or with a large crowd tragedy can strike. We want everyone to have a great time at the lake, but be safe.”
There a few things that make Lake Tapps dangerous, he said. One is the lake is deceptively cold, with glacial water from Mount Rainier, so hypothermia can set in. So while at the surface the water temperature may be 60 to 70 degrees, a couple feet under it can be 50 degrees.
“The cold water can quickly sap your strength and energy,” McCallion said. “Even accomplished swimmers who think they can swim a couple hundred yards frequently can’t.”
Another problem in past drownings has been carbon monoxide poisoning from boats. Swimmers near boats can get disoriented from a lack of oxygen and slip under water. People can be hard to find underwater because of the fine silt from the glacier water.
One thing that helps safety at Yorke park is a shed where people can borrow life jackets. But there have been problems with that system.
“People steal them, which is ridiculous,” McCallion said, adding they can’t spend hundreds of dollars to replace them.
Still, he encourages people to use them.
“In 10 years here I’ve never had to recover anyone wearing a life jacket,” he said.
Besides wearing lifejackets, McCallion has some other safety tips.
- Dial 9-1-1. “Many people fail to recognize it’s an emergency because there’s a strong sense of denial,” he said. Dispatchers can help with first aid and give other key advice.
- Don’t drink alcohol. This weekend there actually will be a zero tolerance alcohol emphasis on Lake Tapps and Church Lake by the Bonney Lake police’s Marine Service Unit. Operation Dry Water is an annual campaign designed to detect and enforce boating while under the influence laws.
- Have a first-aid kit, with real-life, useful tools in it. Not just bandages but a cloth that could stop bleeding, and things like a sling.
- Be prepared. Fire and rescue actually is teaching an eight-hour class on CPR today. But many people don’t have time for that. So in August it is starting a new hands-on basic class that will take 45 minutes. McCallion said Fire and Rescue has six stations covering 152 square miles. “We can’t be everywhere at once. So the more trained, the better off we are,” he said.
Bonney Lake High School Principal Linda Masteller also sent out a letter of support to parents of students this afternoon. She says school staff is reaching out to Quentin's family to offer support.
"We are all shocked and saddened by this event," she says.
Principal Masteller's letter
June 22, 2012
Dear Bonney Lake High School parents/guardians:
I want to share with you information about a recent event that has affected the entire school community. On Thursday, June 21, one of our students drowned at Lake Tapps while swimming with friends. At this time we do not have additional information to share with you about the incident or plans for services. Our staff is in communication with the student's family and is offering them our support. We are all shocked and saddened by this event.
It is difficult to accept the unexpected loss of such a young person. Death strikes each of us differently based on our relationship to the individual we lost. We encourage you to discuss the student's death with your child, as appropriate. Please be aware that young people respond to tragedy or grief in different ways. Some may experience a rush of feelings right away, while others may be in a state of disbelief for a while and may just appear dazed and confused. Some may initially be very angry or fearful, while others may be so uncomfortable with their feelings that they act silly or giggly, even though they are hurting inside. All of these reactions are normal ways of dealing with grief.
Students and families going through the grieving process often have a need to talk or express difficult feelings. You can help by simply talking and listening. We don't always know how youth will be affected in a crisis, but you know your child better than anyone. Be prepared for your child to exhibit one or more of these behaviors:
- claim not to be affected
- ask a lot of questions
- act agitated and angry
- try abnormally hard to be good
- have frightful dreams
We have a list of resources and information about supporting children and youth in dealing with death and grief available on our school Web page. Although school is closed for the summer, we can provide some support for our students and families as they go through the grieving process or have the need to talk or express difficult feelings.
Counseling support will be available over the summer, if assistance is needed for your family in coping with this tragedy. Please e-mail our school counselorDasha Berry and she will contact you to make an appointment.
We know that many students, family and friends are suffering deeply. Please keep them in your thoughts.
Linda Masteller, Principal