Reservoir's danger has long lured teens

Boy's drowning laid to bravado of `young kids'

June 22, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Terry Lee Putnam Jr. of Reisterstown was a typical 16-year-old. He played sports, hung out with friends and worked at odd jobs.

On Tuesday, he did a typical teen thing: He and four friends jumped from the Deer Park Road bridge into Liberty Reservoir 40 feet below. It cost Putnam his life.

"These were young kids who did something foolish," said Carroll County Sheriff's Deputy 1st Class Russ Fritz, who is assigned to the Maryland State Police barrack in Westminster. "I could see myself doing it years ago. Any swimming hole anywhere is a temptation when it's 90 degrees."

That Putnam, who had attended Franklin High School, was susceptible to a plunge into cool water on a hot afternoon did not surprise his family.

"At 16, they always think they are invincible," Jane Cofiell said of her grandson. "I raised six and I know that's what they think when they are his age. Terry Lee was just a typical teen-ager who loved life."

Cofiell and Putnam's father, Terry L. Putnam Sr., had warned the fair-haired, slightly built teen-ager just a few weeks ago about the dangers of bridge jumping.

"We talked to him about it and he promised he would never do it," Cofiell said.

Jumping from the bridge is almost a rite of passage for area youth, said Cofiell, 58, who remembers worrying about it when her sons were young.

"They have been doing the same thing since I was a kid," she said. "Why don't they do something to stop kids from doing this?"

Several agencies patrol the reservoir, including Maryland State Police and Natural Resources Police, but with about 164 square miles in the watershed and 82 miles of shoreline it is difficult to control, officials said.

Barriers would not deter jumpers, said Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works. Signs warn against swimming and trespassing.

"If someone wants to disobey the posted rules against swimming and trespassing, they will," said Kocher.

In the past 10 years, four people have drowned in the reservoir.

Police interviewed Putnam's friends and are continuing the investigation. They do not suspect foul play.

Police said Putnam surfaced after the jump, tried to swim but went underwater. One friend pulled him to shore and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Another ran to the road and flagged down a motorist who called 911.

Putnam was taken to Carroll County General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 6 p.m.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Eckhardt Funeral Chapel, 11605 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills.

In addition to his father and grandmother, he is survived by his mother, Joy Lynn Smith Woods of Glen Burnie; his 14-year-old brother, Shane Andrew Putnam of Glen Burnie; and his grandfathers, Howard Baublitz of Taneytown and Nevlin Putnam of Fairfield, Pa.

Sun staff writer Mike Farabaugh contributed to this article.

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