Teacher, mentor drowns at UMBC

Death of Upward Bound counselor, 25, is likely accidental, police say

June 28, 2008|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

Deon Oneil Henry Jr. had the summer off as a health education teacher, so he decided to take a job working with 38 low-income high school students in an Upward Bound program.

One of nine counselors in the program, Henry, 25, helped expose students to what life could be like for them in college. His days were filled with teaching and recreation sessions, including swims at the indoor pool at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where the program was based for the summer.

But during one of those recreation sessions Wednesday night, Henry died in what authorities preliminarily believe was an accidental drowning. According to a Baltimore County police report, Henry tried to see how long he could hold his breath while swimming with at least one friend, but never surfaced again.

A lifeguard pulled him out of the deep end of the pool and, with help from bystanders, tried to resuscitate him, to no avail, as students and other counselors looked on, according to the police report and an Upward Bound official.

Henry, a 2006 graduate of Morgan State University, was engaged and had a 1-year-old son with his fiancee, Brandy Timpson.

"We're just taking it day by day," Timpson said yesterday in a brief telephone interview.

A report on the cause and manner of Henry's death from the state medical examiner's office was not immediately available yesterday.

Timpson said her fiance joined Upward Bound after one of his co-workers at Southwest Academy in Catonsville introduced him to the program. At first, he applied to be a part-time teacher, but he accepted an offer to be a full-time residential counselor. As part of his job, he lived at UMBC and taught and supervised the students day and night, she said.

Upward Bound offers year-round educational and other programs for economically disadvantaged children. The Community College of Baltimore County works with Upward Bound throughout the year at its Dundalk and Catonsville campuses, according to CCBC and Upward Bound officials.

But during the summer, Upward Bound runs a program that exposes high school students to a college environment. Because the community colleges don't offer housing, Upward Bound has an agreement with UMBC to use some of its dorms and recreational facilities.

Pamela Jackson, Upward Bound's director at the Dundalk campus, said she did not know how many students may have been present when Henry was pulled from the pool. But she said counseling services have been made available to the group. Though he had been with the students less than two weeks, Henry had built a "pretty solid" level of trust with the students, she said.

"It was a very traumatic experience because he was so full of life, because he so engaged the students," Jackson said.

County police officers were called to the campus at 8 p.m. Wednesday, arriving to find the indoor pool's lifeguard, Evan Roseberry and bystander Violeta Rus, 53, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Henry, according to the police report. Paramedics took Henry to St. Agnes Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:56 p.m.

Police interviewed Roseberry, Rus and other witnesses. Rus, a doctor, told police she was swimming when she saw the lifeguard pull Henry from the pool. She told police she helped try to save him until paramedics arrived.

Roseberry, 20, told police he saw three others swimming with Henry when the counselor went underwater and "failed to resurface." Roseberry dived into the pool to rescue him.

Another witness, Arnold Dukes, 32, told police that Henry went underwater to see how long he could hold his breath. Henry remained underwater for an "extended period of time," and Dukes called for Roseberry to help him, according to the report.

Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, said that officers investigated Henry's death and determined that it was accidental.

"We've gotten no indication of any criminal activity," Toohey said.

Jackson, the Upward Bound administrator, said officials are paying close attention to the students' needs.

"A few of the students were distressed," Jackson said. "Hopefully, students are beginning the healing process."

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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