Glen Burnie man dies on perilous stretch of Little Patuxent River

June 20, 1994|By Matt Ebnet | Matt Ebnet,Sun Staff Writer

A young Glen Burnie man died early yesterday at a dangerous stretch of the Little Patuxent River -- the same spot where a woman was rescued after slipping from a rock three days earlier.

George Daniel Snyder, 22, was visiting the popular swimming hole with eight friends -- drinking and cooling off after Saturday night's "Rockstock" concert at Columbia's Merriweather Post Pavilion -- when he apparently drowned, police said.

"We said it was hot, let's go cool off, let's go to the river," said Billy Gunn, 21, one of the friends. "We went there to have fun, have a good time."

The accident is one more in a decades-long string of deaths and injuries at Howard County's Historic Savage Mill and Little Patuxent River area. The popular site, known as Savage Rocks, is a 300-foot-deep quarry about 10 feet square, framed by sharp rocks that also dot the Little Patuxent there.

A passerby found Mr. Snyder in a shallow section of the Little Patuxent, in water about 4 feet deep about a quarter-mile from the Savage Rocks swimming hole. His skull had been cracked open and he had gashes on his head, said his father, John Snyder Sr., who identified the body late yesterday morning.

How the young man died was unclear yesterday. But what was clear, from a Howard County police account and Mr. Gunn, is that the group had been drinking.

George Snyder eventually became separated from his friends because he had "gotten in a big fight with his girlfriend," the father said.

"He was sitting out on the rocks contemplating," he said.

"Then," said Mr. Gunn, "we turned around 15 minutes later and he was gone."

The disappearance occurred between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., Mr. Gunn said. The friends searched for George Snyder, looking behind bushes, within the dogwood and cherry trees. About 5 a.m., they called the police.

The call brought more than two dozen rescue workers to the area. About 7:15 a.m., two of them stepped into chin-deep water to retrieve the body.

The cause of death was to be determined by the state medical examiner's office. County police are investigating the accident.

"I was shocked, but I wasn't too shocked," said the elder Snyder, who noted that he also played in the area as a youth. "At least he looked peaceful, he looked peaceful. . . . It didn't look like he went through a lot of pain."

In the past, the Little Patuxent area has exacted injuries ranging from broken or sprained limbs to a broken neck. On Thursday, a 20-year-old woman was rescued from the rain-swollen river after slipping from a rock and being carried 150 to 200 feet by the current. About 40 rescue workers took more than an hour to save her.

Lt. Michael Gearhart, spokesman for Howard's fire and rescue ++ service, said yesterday that the county has about six to eight deaths per year in freshwater sites. Typically, one or two of those deaths are in the Little Patuxent River and the nearby quarry area, he said.

Howard County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, the 1st District Democrat who represents the area, said she had thought the county was succeeding in reducing accidents along the river there, but "I guess not."

"Simply, what we need to do is remind police that they need to be there," said Ms. Pendergrass, a former president of the Savage Community Association.

Part of the attraction to the site may be tradition.

Mr. Snyder's father and his uncle, Dennis Weins, played there as children and knew how much fun and how dangerous it was. They both had sat in "Kings Seat," a niche between two rocks where the water rushes over, they said yesterday. They both had fished there. They both had played there in the sun.

And on occasion, they had warned George Snyder, who friends say lived for the present.

"But he was young," said the elder Snyder, "and he was a carefree boy who liked to have fun. They're going to do what they are going to do."

"He may have drank too much, he may not have. He probably did," his father said.

But at this point, the father said, "it doesn't matter."

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