A man trying to rescue his seven-year-old niece drowned Friday afternoon at Lake Red Rock.
A call came in to the Pella Police Department at 2:55 p.m. Friday, June 15, requesting assistance on the Des Moines River, south of the Red Rock Dam. Lt. Brian Bigaouette of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office tells the Tribune that the little girl was playing in the South Tailwater area of the dam when she went under.
Several of her family members entered the water to rescue her. This included her uncle, Cha Charles Lee of St. Cloud, Minn. Today was Lee’s 42nd birthday.
A boater, who requested not to be identified at this time, recovered the child, as well as several of her potential rescuers. CPR was performed on the little girl and she was rushed to Pella Regional Medical Center, then on to Blank Children’s Hospital for greater observation. Bigaouette reported that the little girl was in stable condition after 10 p.m. Friday night.
Mr. Lee did not resurface. Search efforts to find him were unsuccessful. Members of the Pleasantville Dive Team discovered his body approximately 20 yards away from the initial incident scene two hours later.
To his recollection, Bigaouette believes that this is the first drowning at the lake in around two years. He added that those who enjoy the lake need to remember to do so around other people. It was proven again today that when the public knows first aid, lives can be saved. The Sheriff’s Office encourages everyone to learn life-saving techniques when the opportunity is presented.
“Although this event ended tragically, I applaud the heroic efforts of the nearby voter,” Sheriff Jason Sandholdt said in a press release. “He saved additional family members’ lives today by being in the area and providing assistance.”
Sandholdt went on to say that the boater was very humble about his actions, and stressed the importance of getting to know CPR. The boater’s focus today was not on seeking accolades, but paying respect to the family of Mr. Lee.
Agencies responding to the call included the Sheriff’s Office, Pella Police, Pleasantville Dive Team, Knoxville Fire/Rescue, Pella Fire and Ambulance, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.