Archive for Monday, August 15, 2011

Douglas County reviewing swimming regulations at Lone Star Lake after second drowning

Divers from a Douglas County rescue team work to locate the body of a Tonganoxie man Saturday, August 13, 2011. The man drowned while swimming with friends.

Divers from a Douglas County rescue team work to locate the body of a Tonganoxie man Saturday, August 13, 2011. The man drowned while swimming with friends.

August 15, 2011


Douglas County officials are examining swimming regulations at Lone Star Lake in the wake of two drownings this summer.

A dive team Saturday afternoon recovered the body of James Nichols Owens, 30, of Tonganoxie who drowned while swimming in the county-owned lake. A 7-year-old Kansas City, Mo., boy, Osiris M. Lumanyika, also drowned on July 2 near the swimming dock on the lake’s beach.

County officials were already in the process of revising regulations for camping, fishing and boating in the park around Lone Star Lake, but now expect to expand that review and re-examine swimming policies at Lone Star Lake, said Keith Browning, director of Douglas County’s public works department.

“The two drownings definitely have to be a factor in it,” Browning said. “I don’t know that it makes us change the regulations at this point, but it certainly has to be a factor.”

Browning said this summer’s deaths are the only two swimming-related drownings at the lake that he can recall. The county has never had a lifeguard on duty at the lake, and it posts a sign notifying people they swim at their own risk.

Browning said county officials also encourage swimmers to be careful if they go too deep, use flotation devices if they can and for parents to watch their children.

Jerry Morton, whose family has had a cabin at Lone Star Lake since 1948, said he believed the county needed more supervision and enforcement of regulations to make sure people were only swimming in designated areas.

Douglas County Sheriff’s officials have called both drownings this summer tragic accidents.

Witnesses said Owens on Saturday afternoon appeared to struggle in the water in a part of the lake where the water gets deeper. Owens had jumped into the water from the dock in the swimming area and swam out several feet away into the middle of the lake’s northeast cove, said Cindy Dunham, a Lawrence resident who was sitting on the dock Saturday and called 911.

“He was coughing, and he looked as though he was struggling to stay above water,” she said. “I could really only see his head. He was there, and then he wasn’t.”

Sgt. Steve Lewis, a sheriff’s spokesman, said Monday that officers suspected Owens had been using alcohol, but Lewis said that was preliminary and that the coroner’s office would complete a toxicology report later. Dunham, who said she did not know Owens, did not see him drink any alcohol at the lake.

Owens’ brother Mike Gibson, of Oskaloosa, said Owens, grew up in Tonganoxie, drove a monster truck and would travel around the country performing in shows. He is survived by a 12-year-old daughter, Sydny, and his girlfriend, Rozie Reed, of Tonganoxie, who is expecting a child in September, Gibson said. Family members Monday were still waiting on information from the coroner’s office and investigators.

“Nick was a very good swimmer. He’s been swimming since he was 2 years old,” Gibson said.

Gibson was encouraged county officials were re-examining swimming regulations at the lake.

“I pray no other family has to go through this,” he said. “I know things happen, and everything happens for a reason. But if there’s something that could be done or something there, yeah, by all means I think it needs to be taken care of.”


DRsmith 6 years, 8 months ago

Don't go swimming unless you know how to swim?

countrygall78 6 years, 8 months ago

Seriously! Did you not read the article??? HE DOES KNOW HOW TO SWIM!!!!

Lana Christie-Hayes 6 years, 8 months ago

....realize that even the best of swimmers can find themselves in "deep water" when unexpected things happen.. (a cramp, a branch underwater that snags you, a current, or even just a coughing attack where you can't catch your breath.)... God bless this young man's family and may he R.I.P. !

deec 6 years, 8 months ago

Stay in the designated swimming area? My condolences to both families for their losses, but more regulations would not have prevented either tragedy. I've swum across Lone Star in the past starting at the docks. It is farther than it looks. The little guy didn't know any better, but an adult maybe should have. Again I mean no disrespect to the departed. We've all done foolish things in our lives. But unless the county wants to post a deputy at the swimming dock 24/7 to hand out tickets for violating the rules, there's not much to be done.

Chris Golledge 6 years, 8 months ago

LTG, Deec,

Agree on all points except I think it would be fruitless to regulate staying in the designated swimming area. There is always some inherent risk associated with swimming, kind of like there is always some risk involved with driving. You do what you can to educate people about being safe during the activity, but you can't eliminate the risk without eliminating the activity. Lots of people have drowned in designated swimming areas.

DRsmith, Please pay attention; Mr Owens was a good swimmer. But, things happen. It could be anything from getting hung up on lost fishing line to having a heart attack while swimming. The odds of that are pretty low, but if it happens and there is no one there capable of helping you out, you are done.

DRsmith 6 years, 8 months ago

Not much the county can do about this.

homechanger 6 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Heather Perry 6 years, 8 months ago

regulations won't help anyone but the county make more money...perhaps Mr.Obama can create a lifeguard job for the area?

Heather Perry 6 years, 8 months ago

..and let's not forget the two broken necks last year.

purplesage 6 years, 8 months ago

Paul Harvey used to interject the comment, "Self government won't work without self discipline." Unless some people can discipline themselves not to make unnecessary and hurtful comments in reference to stories like this one, the LJW needs to pull the privilege of comments on stories involving accidents - traffic and otherwise.

homechanger 6 years, 8 months ago

Not sure why it's hurtful but the money we are spending on the srs office could fund a lifeguard position. Sometimes common sense or lack of is the real problem.

Aimee Polson 6 years, 8 months ago

I doubt a lifeguard would help. It is extremely hard to see more than 6 inches below the surface of that water. Also, that lifeguard and whoever hired him/her would be taking on a tremendous liability. Better to swim at your own risk.

homechanger 6 years, 8 months ago

Not about money? What is it about? More regulations without enforcement will not prevent another drowning.

gr 6 years, 8 months ago

That's just so wrong. What does Mike Gibson not understand about, "swim at their own risk"?

countrygall78 6 years, 8 months ago

He does understand "swim at their own risk" and if you read it was not his idea of looking into the regulations on swimming he just agreed with it and you would do the same if you lost a loved one is such a tragic way.

Sigmund 6 years, 8 months ago

Fact of the matter is there are some problems the government can not solve. Pass all the regulations and laws you want and the only thing that will be accomplished is politicians will feel good about themselves. People will still drown, but there will be one more law for police to enforce and courts will assess fines on those who can swim and don't drown.

homechanger 6 years, 8 months ago

Look quit slamming food stamps. Lots of hungry kids need assistance. It's not the fault of the children.

gr 6 years, 8 months ago

Of course, then again, we could outlaw swimming. Anyone caught swimming will be shot. We must protect people from harm.

And we should look at areas that encourage such behavior as swimming. For example, at the pools right in Lawrence encourage behavior such as swimming that resulted in death. By preventing people from swimming at the pools, by preventing them from learning how to swim, more swimming deaths can be prevented. They won't be tempted to do things such as swim in a lake.

The government must protect all people from themselves. Ban all activities.

Personally, I'd be very upset if they changed any of the swimming regulations. Post a sign. You choose to take the risk, or not. But, even posting a sign could be a bad thing. What if there was a lifeguard and someone drowned. Does that mean the county is completely at fault, then? If I want to swim at the lake and outside of the lines, I should have that right without trying to sneak around hope I'm not caught. That could have a bigger impact of someone drowning. Especially if they are away from the "lines" and want to swim, they wait until dark so they won't be caught and will more likely to drown or not be rescued.

countrygall78 6 years, 8 months ago

Again..... can't you read or if you actually knew him you would know he was a very good swimmer and s**t happens!

oldbaldguy 6 years, 8 months ago

It takes 20 seconds to drown. A trained lifeguard might have prevented both deaths. Does it make sense to have one out there? Whenever I have been at the swimming area, little or no people are there. Close the swimming area.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 8 months ago

You mean fill in the lake? That will take a lot of dirt.

mawils 6 years, 8 months ago

I frequent this swimming area with my husband and two kids every summer and every time it's packed. You have to watch yourself and those with you and use common sense. If you have kids keep a very close eye on them. Adults and children should only swim where you can touch the bottom If they wanna do something then make the deepest section of the swimming area only 6 feet deep.

mae 6 years, 8 months ago

Missouri kid here just laughs at you people. Really? Kansas has no good rivers and the lakes are all going to waste due to something or another. Now restricting swimming at one good lake is going to help? Puh-lease. This will compound the problem with a new generation that can't swim. Every coastal state is laughing at us now that this is published and even our neighbor states think this is stupid. Post up a lifeguard at every quarter mile of every river in Missouri where our Kansas boys go canoeing every year.....

BlackVelvet 6 years, 8 months ago

Amazing......everytime someone dies, whether a murder, drowning, vehicle accident, it seems the morons in our society have to descend upon to make some inane comments about the incident. Simply amazing.

muddfoot55 6 years, 8 months ago

There is no cure for stupitity or poor planning. 1. Know the water you are swimming in 2. BUDDY system 3. Stay in the designated swimming area 4. Parents, watch your kids 5. If you can't swin, use a flotation device 6. When you're tired, GET OUT! My sister and I camped and swam Lone Star with no less than 6-8 kids in our camp and we got home with all of them. You have to RESPECT water, it can kill you

Kris_H 6 years, 8 months ago

Can you still skinny dip at Lone Star on a moonless night? Just askin'. :)

gr 6 years, 8 months ago

If you are afraid of drowning your of your kids drowning, Don't go to the lake.

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