McDonald County, Mo. - During the summer months, locals and visitors alike flock to Elk River around the Southwest Missouri community of Noel for a scenic float trip through the Ozarks.
In fact, most weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day get quite crowded on the river due to its popularity. Typically, the waters of Elk River are calm with lots of shallow sections.
Unfortunately, this summer has been met with an unusual amount of tragedy with the drowning of four people - two children and two adults - on Elk River in just the past month.
In the evening on Friday, July 9th, a 14-year-old was playing in a shallow section of Elk River around Wayside Campground in Noel. However, at some point he stepped into deeper waters of the river and was unable to get out. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the victim was located after a short search - and then transported to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin where he was pronounced dead.
He was the first drowning victim of the summer.
Elk River claimed its second and third drowning victims during the last week of July. Both victims were out-of-state visitors.
In the early evening on Monday, July 26th, 27-year-old Joel F. Pascual of Commerce, Oklahoma was wading in the waters of Elk River approximately three miles north of Noel. After venturing out into deeper water, he drowned after being unable to swim back to the shore.
The very next afternoon, 46-year-old Maria Lilibeth Reyes of San Antonio, Texas was in a canoe about three miles north of Noel when her canoe hit a tree in the river and capsized. Unfortunately, the victim became trapped underwater - between her canoe and the tree - and drowned.
Both drownings occurred in the same section of the river less than 24-hours apart.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, neither Pascual nor Reyes were wearing life vests.
Elk River claimed its fourth drowning victim - a six-year-old boy - just before 2:00 P.M. on Friday, August 6th. Like two of the earlier drownings, the victim was wading in a shallow section of the river before going too far out.
After venturing out into deeper waters, he was unable to swim back to the shore and drowned. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, he was transported to Freeman Neosho Hospital and pronounced dead just before 4:00 P.M.
Wearing a water safety flotation device is the best way to protect yourself from drowning when you are on a river or lake.
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