Boy celebrating 13th birthday drowns in Oregon Ridge lake

Beach closed indefinitely after death of boy from Silver Spring camp

August 08, 2014|By Jean Marbella and Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

A Laurel boy who was celebrating his 13th birthday drowned at the Oregon Ridge lake Friday, prompting Baltimore County officials to close the beach until further notice.

Dennis Kemp, 13, of the 3000 block of Old Channel Road, was on an outing with the Silver Spring-based Camp Sonshine, according to county public safety officials. Fire Department rescuers were called to the park shortly before 12:30 p.m. Witness told them they saw the boy in distress and slipping under the water, officials said.

Kemp's body was recovered just after 3 p.m. in about 45 feet of water, officials said. He and others from the camp had passed a swimming test required for entry to the deeper part of the lake. County officials described the section where the boy drowned as a "roped area," but said swimming was permitted there.

Camp Sonshine is a Christian camp founded in 1981, according to its website. Participants in the camp's Wilderness Teen Program arrived at Oregon Ridge shortly before noon, according to a statement posted on the site.

"We are deeply saddened by this situation and are going to do everything that we can to help the family and campers affected," the statement said. "This is the first time that something like this has ever happened at Camp Sonshine in our 33-year history."

"We send our prayers and thoughts to the family at this time," the statement said. "More than everything, we are a family here, and any loss felt by one of us is felt by all of us."

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz spoke with the boy's parents, who were called to Oregon Ridge after their son was reported missing. Kamenetz also spoke to staff at the park.

"This is a terrible tragedy," he said, "On behalf of the citizens of Baltimore County, I offer deepest sympathy to the victim's family and friends."

Park lifeguards searched the water unsuccessfully for the boy until county rescue crews arrived from the nearby Texas Station in Cockeysville, and from Kingsville and Middle River fire companies. A Carroll County dive unit also responded. Baltimore City sent a sonar unit, but the boy's body was recovered before it arrived.

Baltimore County Fire Lt. Jay Ringgold said rescuers could not remember any previous drownings in the lake. Oregon Ridge, at more than 1,100 acres, is the largest park owned by the county.

The beach and its pavilion will remain closed indefinitely to allow investigators to review the incident, Ringgold said.

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