Girl drowns at Coldwater Lake on Fourth of July

A 12-year-old girl drowned after falling off of a raft July 4 at Coldwater Lake. Photo courtesy KSN News

COLDWATER, Kan. (KSNW) – Investigators say a 12-year-old girl drowned after she fell off of her raft Tuesday and was pulled away by the current at Coldwater Lake.

“We had jet skis, tubes, we had everything out there looking,” said Thomas Smith, a witness of the drowning.

It started out as a typical Fourth of July by the lake in Coldwater. Two young children were floating on rafts when the wind knocked them into the water. The sheriff said neither of the children could swim.

“One of the children was able to get back to the raft, and the other one, which was a 12-year-old female, she ended up going under, and that was the last they’d seen of her,” said Comanche County Sheriff Michael Lehl.

Officers quickly formed a search party for the girl.

“They started calling us boats and jet skis in and they were putting police line on our vehicles so we could stay out and look,” said Smith. “We spent about two hours, three hours looking.”

Smith was at the lake with his family when he was asked to join the search party.

“A lot went through your head when you’re out there looking, especially when you’re looking for a 12-year-old and your son is 12 years old,” added Smith.

The sheriff said tragedies like this are both devastating and avoidable.

“Unfortunate things like this happen when we don’t pay attention to safety,” said Sheriff Lehl.

It’s a somber reminder for park-goers like Brandi Eakes who was at the lake with her two and a half-year old son.

“Just that constant reminder that anything can happen in a split second, and so we’ve definitely watched him a little bit closer, and yeah, he’s had his life jacket on,” said Eakes.

Witnesses said the girl was ultimately found around the bend from the swimming area.

The Comanche County Sheriff said it’s a good reminder for all parents to go to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism website for tips to stay safe at the lake.


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