OUTDOORS + RECREATION

After two teens drown in Utah, water-safety expert warns of undercurrent danger

Jun 27, 2023, 5:00 PM

Warnings are being issued about water safety after a 17-year-old boy drowned while swimming with fr...

Conner Bowden is pictured. He went missing Sunday but was found dead Monday at Hyrum Dam Beach. (Family photo)

(Family photo)

SALT LAKE CITY — Weber County officials are issuing water-safety warnings after a 17-year-old boy drowned while swimming with friends near a retention dam in Weber County. The Weber County Sheriff’s Office said the teens had entered a restricted area and bypassed a locked gate at Hooper Dam.

Water near dams can create an undercurrent that can be difficult to spot from the surface and is difficult for even strong swimmers to escape, a water-safety expert told KSL Newsradio. 

 

Officials said the boy who drowned became caught in an undercurrent near the dam. A friend jumped in to help rescue the teen but also became struck by the undercurrent. The third friend called 911.

Two deputies were able to pull the second teen to safety just in time. Officials found the other boy’s body on Sunday night.

“Unfortunately, the area they were swimming in is right next to retention dam, which when deputies arrived, there was a pretty severe undercurrent where the first teen had gone underwater,” said Lt. Colby Ryan of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.

“The undercurrent is just where the water turns in circles. Once you get lost in it, you don’t know which way is up and which way is down. They’re very difficult to swim out of; even a very strong swimmer has a hard time getting out of an undercurrent,” Ryan said.

Cache County teen drowns

In the other drowning, Conner Bowden, 14, went missing around 2:30 Sunday afternoon at Hyrum Reservoir in Cache County.

Sheriff’s Lt. Mikelshan Bartschi said divers with the Department of Public Safety located Bowden’s body Monday morning after almost 20 hours of searching. K-9 units also searched the shoreline and a helicopter with infrared scanning ability was brought in, according to cachevalleydaily.com.

Water-safety expert shares life-saving wisdom

Ty Hunter, boating coordinator for the Division of Outdoor Recreation is also stressing the importance of life jackets. 

Hunter warns swimmers to stay away from retention and irrigation dams because they can become trapped in that dangerous, hard-to-detect undercurrent.

“They are not safe to be around. Do not swim in and around and especially on the downstream side of it because you will get caught and pinned in those locations. Stay away from them,” he warned.

Hunter also urges swimmers and boaters to wear their life jackets around water. When you are traveling in a car or truck, you wear a seat belt. The same thing goes for life jackets and water, he said.

“Please wear your life jackets. They will save your life … will help you in that time of need where you do not have enough energy or capacity to be able to get yourself to safety. They will keep you floating,” he advised.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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After two teens drown in Utah, water-safety expert warns of undercurrent danger