By Jay Mejia

Four young men enjoying themselves at Longview Lake last Saturday followed one of the cardinal rules of water safety by swimming in a group. They ignored the other vital one of not wearing life jackets.

In a tragedy that could have been avoided, 18-year-old Timothy Nolen of Kansas City, MO drowned June 21 as the group of four youths were trying to swim from one cove of Longview Lake to another around 2:30 p.m., according to Kansas City Fire Department Battalion Chief James Garrett.

A call was made to the Missouri Highway Patrol and a helicopter, launch boats, ambulances and vehicles of the KCFD participated in the rescue of three of the young men. Nolen’s body was recovered nearly an hour later.

Battalion Chief Garrett said he had no information about whether alcohol was involved in the accident.

The outcome would have been much different had the young men been wearing life jackets, according to Dwayne Dohon, vice president of the Lee’s Summit Underwater Rescue and Recovery Team (LSURR). The team was not called to the scene as the Highway Patrol oversees the state’s water patrol division, however, it does conduct organized body searches in local lakes and ponds when requested.

“You should never swim in a lake or pond without a life jacket as they are exactly that – life savers,” Dohon said. “In a lake environment you just don’t know what you’re dealing with. There are a lot of things that put you at risk like the current, the depth of the water and there could be branches, stumps, bottles or other debris in the water that can cause injury and even death. Things can happen quickly and go wrong.”

Swimming in pairs or in groups is important, Dohon said, because others can either assist an imperiled swimmer or go for help. He also cautioned about drinking alcohol while swimming.

“Alcohol and water don’t mix either in a lake or at a pool,” Dohon said. “You don’t have full body control, your reaction time is slowed, you can become overconfident. We don’t know if alcohol was a factor in this event but it is never a good idea to drink and swim.”

This is the first drowning this year at Longview Lake. There was at least one drowning at the lake last year, he said.

According to news reports, Nolan, a senior at Ruskin High School, had just turned 18 on June 13 of this year.

This was the third drowning call the Missouri Highway Patrol said they responded in the last week. According to the Associated Press, there have been 10 reported drowning deaths across the state of Missouri so far in June.