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Witness offers drowning details

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GINA R. HEINE
August 10, 2010
— The fisherman who rescued a girl from Lions Pond on Saturday said she likely was struggling in the water because a drowning victim was pulling on her ankles.

Brian Spangler, 22, of Janesville noticed a group of kids on the shore headed for a sandbar near Rotary Gardens as he put his 12-foot aluminum jon boat into the pond Saturday afternoon.


As he made his way across the pond, he saw five or six kids on the sandbar, others on the shore and then two kids who started to struggle in the water—all outside the roped swimming area.


Spangler put his trolling motor on full blast and paddled to the struggling teens as people in the area yelled and panicked, he said. By the time he got to the teens, he only saw the girl.


The only teen girl listed in the police report is Amber A. Parr, 15, of St. Peters, Mo., and Spangler said a family member of the girl he rescued said she was from out of state.


Spangler grabbed the girl by the hand and tried to pull her into the boat, but apparently Marcos A. Esquivel, 14, Beloit, was trying to grab onto her from beneath the water.


The second time Spangler pulled the girl out of the water, she popped right out, he said. The girl was coughing, trying to get her breath back, he said. Spangler said he couldn't see Marcos in the water, so he took the girl to shore to seek medical attention.


Spangler headed back into the choppy water, which was 15 feet deep in that area, but there was no sign of Marcos, he said.


About 33 minutes after the incident began, emergency divers from the Janesville Fire Department pulled Marcos from the water about 40 feet from the shore near a point at the northwest edge of Rotary Gardens.


Marcos was pronounced dead at Mercy Hospital, Janesville. An autopsy Sunday in Dane County indicated signs consistent with accidental drowning, Rock County Coroner Jenifer Keach said.


Spangler on Monday criticized emergency responders for not locating the teen sooner. Spangler said rescue workers didn't ask him soon enough where to look for the boy, and he said he had to get into the water to help the single diver bring the boy out.


Bill Ruchti, who was the fire department's shift commander at the scene, said Spangler initially told the first dive crew where to go, then later on shore suggested another area. Meanwhile, the teen swimmers also were directing rescuers to where they thought Marcos went under.


"We have to make our best guess by what information we're given. That's what we did," Ruchti said.


The fire department had one diver in the water with a backup diver in the boat, Ruchti said. Two other sets of divers—one from the fire department and one from the Rock County Sheriff's Office—were about to enter the water when the teen was located, he said.


A Janesville police officer who was first on the scene also entered the water, Spangler said.


Ruchti said Spangler may have assisted the diver, but other fire personnel also helped bring the teen from the water.


Ruchti said rescuers did an excellent job with the personnel available, because the department also was responding to a vehicle accident and two medical calls at the time or just before the drowning.


The department called for mutual aid from the town of Beloit and Milton for two other calls, he said.


"It was a very active dynamic going on," he said.


An adult with the swimmers, Jon T. Wesley, 37, Beloit, also reported chest pains at the drowning scene and paramedics took him to Mercy Hospital.


A hospital official said Monday night no information was available for Wesley.



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