A day after a 20-year-old man drowned in Beaver Dam Swimming Club's deep, chilly waters, a Baltimore County official said the one-time stone quarry complies with state and county regulations for swimming areas.
Thomas L. Vidmar, deputy director of the county Environmental Protection and Resource Management Agency, said yesterday that inspectors found no violations at the popular Cockeysville swimming area during a routine visit June 22.
Some seek closings
Some people have called for the closing of the privately run 30-acre complex because of drownings at quarries in Baltimore County, Vidmar said. Two swimmers drowned within two weeks at the Milford Mill Swim Club in August 1997. But he said closings could not occur without action from state or county legislators.
"But I do know there is some sentiment out there that these types of facilities should be closed," said Vidmar, whose agency oversees public quarries, swimming pools and beaches.
Frederick Elijah Kearse of Chester in Queen Anne's County drowned at the Cockeysville swim club Wednesday while swimming in 60 feet of water. Kearse was the fourth person to drown at the club in just more than four years.
Lt. Jason Moore of the Middle River Volunteer fire and rescue station, headquarters for the county Fire Department dive team, said investigators had difficulty finding Kearse's body because it was at the bottom of the quarry and became lodged between two rocks.
The freshwater quarry is the centerpiece of the Beaver Dam Swimming Club, which dates to the 1930s.
Before it was filled with water, the quarry provided marble for buildings such as the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol and the Peabody Institute.
Up to 2,000 people flock to the quarry -- which has an average depth of 50 feet -- on a summer day to raft and use the diving area and rope swing.
Reporters were not permitted to enter the swim club yesterday. Manager Erich Herwig did not return phone calls. Towson lawyer Mark P. Hanley, who is listed on tax records as the club's owner, hung up on a Sun reporter trying to schedule an interview.
In the past, swimmers have described the quarry as a suburban oasis, resembling a spring-fed lake in New England.
But officials warn there are dangers under the gentle, blue-green waters.
"The bottom is very rocky, there are ledges that bodies can go under," said Moore. "You can be walking on a ledge, and then it disappears."
Not like pools
Vidmar and other water safety experts said quarries can be particularly dangerous for inexperienced swimmers.
"Getting back to safety in a quarry is different than [in] a pool," said Ben Griffin, a health service specialist at the Central Maryland chapter of the American Red Cross.
"In a pool you have four walls to cling to, in a quarry you are in the open," Griffin said.
Karen Leonard, national director for Swim America, the nation's largest swimming school, said swim clubs based at quarries should not be blamed for deaths.
Leonard said people should not swim in quarries unless they can swim 300 yards -- 12 continuous laps in a 25-yard pool -- with their head above water the entire time.
"In a quarry, you cannot be an underwater swimmer," she said. "It is just too big."