16 Drowning Deaths Mark Deadly July 4th Weekend in Texas, Oklahoma
At The Doan Law Firm, our drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer maintains an “in-house” database that tracks reports of accidental drowning deaths from across the country. While it is expected that the number of drowning deaths per day will show a sharp increase over the summer holiday weekends (Memorial, Independence, and Labor Days), the recent July 4th holiday was unusually deadly in both Texas (10 drowning deaths) and Oklahoma (6 deaths). Here is our timeline of this 5-day period.
Wednesday, July 3rd
- (TX) San Antonio: Iris Maxwell, 57, drowned in her home swimming pool
- (OK) Davis: Jeslin Jose, 25, drowned at Turner Falls Park
Thursday, July 4th
- (TX) Grapevine Lake: Alberto Santos, 17, drowned in Grapevine Lake at Rockledge Park
- (TX) Possum Kingdom Lake: Unnamed male, 31, drowned in Possum Kingdom Lake
- (OK) Lake Ellsworth: Fernando Esparza, 21, drowned at Lake Ellsworth
- (TX) Lake Lavon: Unnamed male, 6, drowned in Lake Lavon at Collin Park
- (OK) Lake Altus-Lugert: Robert Kollasch, 56, drowned at Lake Altus-Lugert
- (TX) Cleburne: Michael Robert Franklin, 42, drowned in a private pool in the 1100 block of Willow Creek Road
- (TX) Waco: Christopher Hayes, 42, died one day later as a result of a drowning accident at BSR Water Park
Friday, July 5th
- (OK) Davis: Nune Suresh, 39, was 2nd person to drown at Turner Falls Park in three days
- (TX) Irving: Harmony Bellard, 7, drowned in an apartment complex pool
Saturday, July 6th
- (TX) Matagorda Co.: Kelechi Echefu, 35, drowned at River Side Park
- (TX) Matagorda Co.: Unnamed daughter, 10, of Kelechi Echefu drowned in the same accident as her mother
- (OK) Love Co.: Matthew Reyes, 3, drowned in Lake Murray
Sunday, July 7th
- (TX) Lake Texoma: Colter Huff, 19, drowned in Lake Texoma during a sudden storm
- (OK) Lake Eufaula: Vivienne McDaniel, 4, drowned in Lake Eufaula
Of these 16 drowning accident victims, only 2 (both in Texas) were known to have been wearing a personal floatation device (“lifejacket”) at the time of their deaths.
Two drowning deaths in three days at Oklahoma’s Turner Falls
We could not help but notice the deaths of two visitors to Turner Falls Park, a popular day-trip destination in southern Oklahoma. Since such destinations are usually “filled to capacity” during summer holidays, it could be tempting to explain two deaths at the same location as pure coincidence. Unfortunately, a review of the news media suggests that drowning accidents at Turner Falls are an all-too-common occurrence. In addition to the two previously-mentioned drowning deaths, we were able to locate media reports of 5 additional deaths at Turner Falls since 2016:
- May 29, 2018: A 17-year-old male from Oklahoma City drowned in a pool of water at the base of the falls. The news item closes with the remark “This was the first drowning at Turner Falls in 2018.”
- July 19, 2017: Orlando Guerrero, 34, of Hurst, Texas drowned in the public swimming area of Turner Falls. How Guerrero was able to enter the supposedly-closed swimming area was not mentioned.
- August 17, 2016: Jesus Dagoberto Aldape, 19, of Dallas drowned at the Falls’ “Blue Hole” Pool.
- May 31, 2016: An unnamed 4-year-old died at a local hospital following a drowning accident at the Falls’ “Blue Hole” area. The death led to the requirement that all swimmers 12 and younger wear life vests.
- May 7, 2016: Sathish Sreekumar, 32, of Sherman, Texas drowned at the Falls but we were unable to locate details of the accident.
The Turner Falls Park website, for reasons that should be obvious, makes no mention of the number of previous drowning deaths at that location. It does, however, feature a prominent red blinking warning stating “NO LIFEGUARDS! SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK!” The reason given that no lifeguards are on duty is, according to Davis (OK) police Assistant Chief Dee Gregory, "We've put out, we've advertised, and nobody," Gregory said. "When I say we can't get them, nobody applies."
According to the same news report the City of Davis, Oklahoma, which owns and operates Turner Falls Park, the park is adding new warning signs as “… a warning showing where you go from a shallower area to a deeper area… It warns of steep drop-offs." The park is also reported to be investigating the possibility of contracting with a third-party service to provide lifeguards at the park.
While it may be commendable that Davis, Oklahoma and Turner Falls Park recognize that there are obvious safety issues at the park, we are forced to wonder if such actions will be of comfort to the families of those who have already died at the facility.
As a service to the vacationing public, we will continue monitoring our database for other instances of drowning deaths that seem to suggest a pattern of deaths at the same location and will report on any future findings as they become available.