“Too young to die:” Racine officials warn about water dangers following drowning in Root River

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RACINE COUNTY — Emergency responders in Racine are warning swimmers about open water dangers. This, after two scary incidents on the Fourth of July — one of them tragic. Both involved children. One drowned, and the other came very close.

Officials with the Racine Fire Department said a 14-year-old boy’s drowning on the Fourth of July highlights the importance of learning how to swim — and swimming where lifeguards are present.

Racine residents walking along the Root River on Wednesday, July 5th were troubled to learn a Fourth of July swim in the water for a group of teenagers turned deadly.

Drowning in Root River courtesy: Racine Journal Times/Mark Schaaf

“Too young to die. It’s sad,” said Larry Hill.

Fire officials said a 14-year-old boy was with two friends around 4:00 p.m. near the storm sewer drains when he went under and never resurfaced.

“You hate to see that loss for any family,” said Battalion Chief Willie Hargrove, Racine Fire Department.

Hargrove said divers found the teen submerged 10 minutes later.

“There is a current in the river, but it wasn’t really swift. But what we did find as our divers went out, it was pretty much knee-level early — the first maybe eight to 10 feet. But then there was a nice little drop-off there,” said Hargrove.

Five hours later and just a couple miles away, a seven-year-old fell into Lake Michigan while waiting for the fireworks show. Again, divers with the fire department responded to the scene. This time, they were able to save the child’s life.

“They saw what they thought were lights on the bottom of shoes, like young kids wear. We turned off all the lights on the scene, turned off the scene lights. They went down and were able to recover him,” said Hargrove.

Hargrove hopes both cases serve as an important reminder to the public about open water safety.

Racine police are investigating both cases. The name of the 14-year-old drowning victim has not been released. The seven-year-old was taken to Children’s Hospital. His condition is unknown.