martes, 28 de agosto de 2012

Palatine boy dies after falling from rope at pond - Chicago Tribune

A 13-year-old Palatine boy died Sunday after falling from a rope swing into water the day before, officials said. He would have started eighth grade Monday.

Ben Stepp was with other children swimming and playing in a private pond at a family reunion Saturday afternoon in a rural area of Dieterich, near Effingham in southern Illinois, when the accident occurred, according to authorities. Because of this summer's drought, the pond level was lower than usual, exposing more of the rocky shore and forcing Ben to swing farther out, Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet said.

Ben was swinging from a rope into the pond when he slipped and landed on the edge of a small cliff, possibly hitting his head and getting knocked out, then dropped off the ledge about eight feet into the water, Effingham County officials said.

Adults on the other side of the pond rushed to search for him in the 14-foot-deep water but couldn't find him, the sheriff said. A member of the Effingham County Dive Rescue Team found the boy within one minute of searching, but he had been underwater for about half an hour, rescue team commander Terry Trueblood reported in a news release.

CPR was administered at the scene, and the teen was transported to St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham, the release said.

Ben attended Sundling Junior High School in Palatine, where he was a member of the school band, Principal Jason Dietz said. Last week Ben had volunteered to be a peer mentor, introducing new students to the school.

"He was a very involved student," Dietz said. "His teachers truly enjoyed him. Other students looked up to him as far as following the rules and getting the work done."

Monday was the first day of school, and counselors were at Sundling and Lincoln Elementary School, which Ben had attended and which his brother attends.

"He will be greatly missed here," Dietz said.

Ben was just starting to blossom as a swimmer on the Palatine Park District Tigersharks swim team, said coach Tony Gallagher, who had coached him the past three years.

Ben swam butterfly and freestyle and had earned medals qualifying for regionals. Shocked teammates called the coach Monday to see if reports about the death were real.

"He went from the kid that shows up every day and works hard in the middle of the pack ... into a championship-caliber swimmer," Gallagher said. "He was funny, just a clever, witty type, without even trying. He certainly left his imprint on his teammates and coaches."

Ben had recently achieved the star rank in Boy Scouts of America Troop 182, which requires public service, and he had often participated with his father, Timothy, in biking, hiking, camping and white-water rafting, troop committee chairman Rich Jacques said.

The troop met Sunday night to put together a memory board of pictures of Ben and planned to present the American flag during his services.

Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Ahlgrim Family Funeral Services, 201 N. Northwest Highway, Palatine. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Theresa Parish, 455 N. Benton St., Palatine, followed by interment at St. Michael the Archangel cemetery, 1185 W. Algonquin Road, Palatine.

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