Boy, 16, missing, presumed drowned Westminster High student was swimming in reservoir

June 07, 1996|By Kris Antonelli and Mike Farabaugh | Kris Antonelli and Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

A 16-year-old Westminster High School student who apparently skipped the last day of school was missing yesterday, last seen struggling in the murky waters of Prettyboy Reservoir, fire officials said.

Baltimore County Fire Department divers searched 12-foot water near the Clipper Mill Road bridge in northwest Baltimore County for Zachary Hall of the 900 block of Gorsuch Road in Westminster until sunset.

1996 PHOTO Zachary Hall The youth, a sophomore, and six friends were trying to swim across the reservoir when he became tired and started to panic about 75 feet from shore, said Battalion Chief Mark Hubbard, a Fire Department spokesman. Hall's friends tried to pull him up, but he slipped under and they swam back to shore, the spokesman said.

The boys had to walk half a mile down a dirt path to Clipper Mill Road, where they flagged down a motorist who drove to a nearby store and called 911 about 12: 40 p.m., Hubbard said.

"There was at least a 45-minute delay between when he was last seen and we arrived," he said.

Police did not identify the boys.

Hubbard said divers would continue the search today.

"It's slow going for them because the visibility is so bad and there are a lot of rocks and tree stumps on the bottom," he said.

Administrators at Westminster High would not confirm Hall's absence, but said about 35 percent of the school's 2,000

students were absent yesterday. Seniors were allowed to leave school at noon; other students were scheduled for a full day, they said.

Daily absenteeism normally runs about 6 percent at the school, said Principal Sherri-Le Bream. The last day of school "is usually our worst day of attendance."

Hall's family, contacted at home, declined to comment.

Pub Date: 6/07/96

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