The body of a 53-year-old man who drowned in the Liberty...

March 27, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

ELDERSBURG — The body of a 53-year-old man who drowned in the Liberty Reservoir was found by state police divers yesterday near the spot at which the man's canoe capsized Sunday.

The divers recovered the body of David Leppo 70 feet below the surface at 12:05 p.m., said Cpl. Ralph Parker, spokesman for the Natural Resources Police.

Leppo, of the 6600 block of Carroll Highlands Road in Sykesville,had been missing since about 4 p.m. Sunday, when he and his son werefishing in a channel on the reservoir.

Police said the canoe was caught by a strong wind and flipped over, plunging the two men into the bitterly cold water.

Two nearby fishermen -- Edward Federline Sr. and Bob Berchini -- were able to rescue 23-year-old Andy Leppo, but were not able to see where his father went under the surface, state police in Westminster said.

Usually, diving searches are begun where the victim enters the water, Parker said.

Andy Leppo, also ofSykesville, was taken to Baltimore County General Hospital after therescue, where he was treated for hypothermia and released.

The men were not wearing life preservers at the time of the accident, Parker said.

The diving and helicopter search for David Leppo began shortly after the accident.

The rescue teams searched along the sidesof the reservoir on the chance that Leppo was able to swim that far.

The search was called off by 6:15 p.m. Sunday because of the lackof visibility and increasing cold.

Teams of divers from the statepolice, state Department of Natural Resources, and the Gamber Volunteer Fire Co. continued to search for the body all day Monday, but they called off the effort that evening.

The search was resumed earlyTuesday morning by three teams of two divers each, said state policeSgt. John Shelley, who has been a diver for about 30 years.

Shelley and his partner, Mitch Parke, are based at the Easton state policebarracks on the Eastern Shore. They found Leppo's body on their second dive of the day.

"On our first dive, we were down about 25 minutes, but we didn't see anything," said Shelley, who added that the reservoir is about 120 feet deep where the canoe flipped.

"We were only down about 10 minutes when we found him on the second dive."

He said the teams of divers had been going down to 100 feet in that area on Monday but did not see the body.

Parker said the divers wereprepared to continue their search as long as it took to find the victim.

"We make every effort to stay there until the victim is found," said Parker. "The only thing that would make us stop is the weather and darkness."

The cause of Leppo's death is believed to be accidental drowning, Shelley said.

The body was sent to the Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore for an autopsy.

The last accidental drowning at Liberty Reservoir occurred June 9, 1986, when a 31-year-old Woodbine man became exhausted while swimming with his friends and slipped beneath the surface.

There have been many suicides at the reservoir on the Carroll-Baltimore line, Parker said.

He added thatin most boating accidents, drownings could have been prevented if the victims had been wearing their life jackets.

He said there is nolaw requiring boaters in Maryland to wear their life jackets, but they are required to keep them "readily accessible."

"Life jackets are like seat belts," said Parker. "If you don't use them, they don't work."

Police divers recover body of drowned Sykesville man

VICTIM'S CANOE CAPSIZED IN LIBERTY RESERVOIR

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