The next minute, he was nowhere to be seen.
In the blink of an eye last week, the child fell below the water's surface,
breathing in the liquid he seconds earlier had played in happily. Nicholas
was found lying on the pond's bottom, his young body turning blue. He was
recovered by his father with the help of another adult, according to the
Portage County Sheriff's Office.
CPR administered by adults on the beach breathed life back into the little
boy's lungs just as rescue workers from the Mantua-Shalersville Fire Department
arrived on the scene to transport the child to Robinson Memorial Hospital
in Ravenna. Unfortunately, stories like Nicholas' don't always have such
In June, 3-year-old Brandon Anthony Grafton of Ravenna wasn't so lucky;
neither was 16-year-old Jeremy Alan Elliot of Windham.
Brandon died in Tucaway Lake's swimming pond where he was frolicking with
family and friends on Father's Day. He is believed to have been submerged
for six to eight minutes before his body was discovered, according to the
Mantua-Shalersville Fire Department.
Brandon's death came on the heels of a near-drowning incident at the same
campground involving another 3-year-old June 14. That child, who survived,
was transported to Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron for treatment.
"We've been 25 to 30 years with no problems," said Dorothy Pittman
who owns the campground located at 3365 Lake Rockwell Road with her husband,
Roger, who built it. "This must be the year for drownings. It's not
a very pleasant thing."
The campground, which is sheltered by tall trees and accented with grassy
areas, caters mostly to long-term campers. Many set up their recreational
vehicles in campsites as early as May and use the campground as a home base
throughout the summer and into October when the camping season ends, Pittman
The swimming area is a separate body of water from a 75-acre lake, which
attracts many anglers and is speckled with fishing boats throughout the
warm months. The Pittmans allow the public onto Tucaway Lake property to
use the fishing area, but outsiders are not welcome to swim in the pond,
All guests are urged to register with campground management. Visitors also
must register their cars before entering the campground and give their names
to campground managers who try to keep tabs on who is in the park, Pittman
But Portage County's water safety problems haven't been isolated to Tucaway
Lake. Jeremy died while swimming at Holiday Sands on S.R. 14 in Ravenna
Township where he was swimming with a group of friends he considered to
The teen, who died about a month shy of his 17th birthday, is believed to
have tired while swimming. It took a Portage County Sheriff's Office dive
team nearly four hours to recover Jeremy's body from a pond-like swimming
area. His death still is under investigation with the Portage County Coroner's
A complete autopsy report should be available from the Summit County Medical
Examiner's Office, which performed the autopsy, in about two weeks. The
report will include a toxicology report, which will show whether Jeremy
was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.
There were seven lifeguards on duty at the time of Jeremy's death. When
the other incidents occurred this summer at Tucaway Lake, there were no
"We're right on the instruction of the insurance man," Pittman
said, explaining how Tucaway Lake has signs posted mandating all children
under age 6 wear personal flotation devices while swimming there. "But
we cannot keep people from not watching their children. It's not that big
of a pond, and it's not that deep," she continued.
"There's usually just a couple of families there, and they usually
watch out for each other. I guess the lifeguards aren't always a help either.
People depend on the lifeguards."
According to the Ohio Department of Health, Tucaway Lake does not have to
employ lifeguards to patrol its swimming area. The necessity for lifeguards
and the number of certified life-saving personnel public swimming pool and
pond operators must employ is supervised by county health departments.
Specific rules, including the specifics of lifeguard training and certification,
the height and number of lifeguard chairs needed at public swimming pools
and the proximity of first-aid kits and telephones, are set up by the state
health department, which said Tucaway Lake has not violated its lifeguard
The Portage County Chapter of the American Red Cross encourages all parents,
guardians and other caretakers of children to keep a close eye on their
whereabouts while near any body of water, regardless of their swimming abilities.
"The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water
is to learn to swim," according to a summer save-a-life bulletin published
by the Red Cross. "We can't keep an eye on everyone all of the time,"
Pittman echoed. "People need to look out for each other."