Never Far From Danger CARROLL COUNTY

February 12, 1993

Sometimes danger lurks in the most unsuspecting places, as the family of 15-year-old Ratsmy Keosombath discovered Monday afternoon. Her parents thought they had left the worst of life's hazards behind in Southeast Asia when they fled the fighting and chaos in Laos two decades ago. Instead, death pounced on the family when it was least expected.

Ratsmy died at Johns Hopkins Hospital early Tuesday morning after falling through a thin layer of ice that covered the pond at the Taneytown Rod and Gun Club. As was their practice after school, she and Gregory Haller, a neighbor, had come to play with a duck that had made the pond its winter home.

Usually, the duck would come to them, but on Monday, the duck decided to scurry away from them. They chased it toward the center of the pond. About 50 feet from the pond's edge, the ice began to break beneath their feet. They tried to make it back to shore, but the two youths fell into the frigid, 12-foot-deep pond. A non-swimmer, Ratsmy was able to stay afloat by holding on to Gregory's clothing. Another boy, who saw the two fall, ran to get Ratsmy's 19-year-old brother, Nylabonh. By the time Nylabonh returned with a rope, Gregory was in a position to be rescued, but Ratsmy had slipped into the dark, green water.

By the time firefighters were able to pull Ratsmy out, she had been under water for about 20 minutes. Despite resuscitation efforts at the scene and at the hospital, where Ratsmy was flown by helicopter, she died.

In America, Ratsmy's parents found the safe haven they were seeking when they left Laos. Oudom and Chanh Keosombath had to struggle mightily to establish themselves in this country, but they triumphed. They got jobs, raised four children and just recently moved into a larger home in Taneytown. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to them.

By all accounts, Ratsmy was a model teen-ager -- polite, generous and hard-working. But a momentary lapse in judgment took her life.

Ratsmy's accident shows how very close death is to all of us. All children make mistakes. They dart into streets, climb too high on trees and drive too fast and recklessly. If we are lucky, they don't make the same mistake twice.

But some mistakes are fatal, and only the living can learn from these.

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