Drowning near Lawrence claims Tonganoxie resident

August 17, 2011

— A 30-year-old Tonganoxie man died Saturday while he was swimming about 75 feet offshore at Lone Star Lake in southern Douglas County, said Douglas County Sheriff spokesman Sgt. Steve Lewis.

Divers were called to the scene shortly before 11:30 a.m. Saturday, and James Nicholas Owens was pulled from the lake about 3:45 p.m., Lewis said.

Lewis said Owens was swimming with friends who immediately noticed he did not come up after going under water. The friends then called for help.

Brooke Crews was nearby on an inflatable raft when Owens went under. Crews heard teenagers calling for help and yelling for someone to dial 911.

She said she didn’t think the teens knew the man in distress but saw they were trying to save him.

“I ran my raft over there to them,” said Crews.

She saw teens using flotation devices to try to rescue Owens. Crews said at one point, Owens grabbed onto one of his would-be rescuer’s legs, and in his panic began to drag the teenager down with him. This forced the teen to let go of Owens to prevent being pulled down with him.

“They started diving for him until the emergency crews showed up,” Crews said.

Rescue crews from the Douglas and Jefferson County sheriffs’ offices, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and other area agencies used boats and divers to search the water.

Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern encouraged swimmers to follow safe practices, such as novice swimmers taking lessons and wearing life preservers. He also urged swimmers to be aware of unfamiliar environments. Lone Star Lake, he pointed out, gets deep fast.

“It goes from calf-deep all the way to 15 feet in just no time,” McGovern said.

This is the second incident at Lone Star Lake this summer. A boy drowned July 2 at Lone Star Lake.

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