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Ranson, W.Va., boy dies after swimming accident on Shenandoah River

June 09, 2008

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A six-year-old Ranson, W.Va., boy who went under water for about four minutes while swimming on the Shenandoah River near Shannondale Sunday died Sunday night, a state Division of Natural Resources official said.

The boy died at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., about 11 p.m., Sunday, said DNR officer Ken White.

The boy was flown to the hospital from Jefferson Memorial Hospital following the accident, officials said.

It appears the boy died from drowning but an autopsy will be conducted by a medical examiner in Washington, D.C., to determine the cause of death, White said.

The boy, whom White would not identify, was swimming near a public access to the Shenandoah River just past Gate 1 to the Shannondale development on Blue Ridge Mountain, White said.

The boy, who was with his mother and two other people, was wading on some underwater rocks when he slipped into a deeper section, White said.

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Justin Mix, of Woodsboro, Md., and Brett Johnson, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., said they were coming down the river in tubes when they noticed someone yelling for help and people speaking in Spanish. Mix said he tried calling 911, but the dispatcher could not hear him.

Others gathered near the river after the incident talked about bad cell phone coverage at the access point.

Johnson said he went to the nearby Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Co. and banged on the door but no one was there.

"There was just a lot of confusion," Mix said.

Aaron Quinn, who was coming down the river in a canoe, said a man tried repeatedly to find the boy, but became exhausted. Then another man went into the water and found him, Quinn said.

Someone volunteered the use of a kayak to bring the boy to the shore, witnesses said.

Barry Hamilton of Brownsville, Md., said his wife was using the kayak. Hamilton said when the boy was brought to shore, he appeared to be seriously hurt.

White said he was not sure what caused the boy to struggle in the water, although his age and not being a strong swimmer were probably factors.

The accident came as many people flocked to the river on a hot afternoon. People in kayaks and canoes were on the river, while others swam in the river with their dogs. Others walked and fished along the banks.

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