MINNEAPOLIS — Counselors were available at a Minneapolis high school, hours after a 15-year-old student drowned in Lake Nokomis Wednesday morning.
Witnesses say the 15-year-old boy was swimming off a beach on the lake’s east side around 10 a.m. with a group of seven friends. He was attempting to reach a floating dock when he went under and did not come back up.
“When I pulled up, the kids were still in the water and I saw them yelling, ‘This is where we saw him last, this is where we saw him last,'” said bystander Laura Morris. “One woman ripped her dress off and was in the water.”
His friends continued to search as authorities rushed to the beach, but Sheriff’s deputies eventually found the teen’s body in about 15 feet of murky water by using sonar.
“I have a 15 year-old myself,” said Morris. “As a parent and just as a human, this is devastating to see.”
KARE 11 has confirmed the teen is a football player at South High School and had been exercising with teammates before the swim. The school’s football coach and principal arrived at the beach to console teammates.
Meantime, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation staff say low staffing levels did not contribute to the tragedy.
“For the beaches, we’re over 60 [lifeguards]. And there will be one beach on all of our lakes that’s guarded seven days a week, and that’s been since 2012,” said Sarah Chillo, the Aquatic Coordinator with Minneapolis Parks and Recreation.
According to staff, the Parks and Recreation board voted to increase lifeguard staffing by as much as 25 percent from 2012-2013 and another 10 percent from 2013-2014. Staff urges people to swim at those beaches where lifeguards are present, particularly if a swimmer isn’t particularly strong. The city’s park and recreation website has a list of what beaches have lifeguards and when.
“Best practice is always to be at a site with lifeguard presence. I also encourage people to wear a life jacket and respect the water and respect themselves,” Chillo said.
A letter on the South High School website urges parents and students to call the school if they need any support during this time. South Principal Ray Aponte told KARE 11 the teens were at Lake Nokomis on their own, not as part of a sanctioned school activity.