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Child dies after being pulled from waters off Sandy Point State Park

State ParksTourism and LeisureNatural ResourcesNature

A young boy who arrived early Monday with family to reserve a spot on the beach at Sandy Point State Park on what was expected to be a crowded Fourth of July holiday slipped under the water and drowned.

According to Capt. James Rostek, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, the boy was pulled from "about four feet of water" about 8 a.m. after being discovered by someone who had been part of a "human chain" to search for the child. The 6-year-old was identified as Saquan L. Kennedy.

Chris Bushman, deputy superintendent of the Maryland Park Service, said the boy was among a group of about a half-dozen youngsters who were playing with a ball near a designated area for swimming, which is not patrolled by lifeguards. The boy went into the water to retrieve the ball and quickly disappeared from view. The other children went to notify adults in their group.

The boy was at Sandy Point with family, but his parents were not at the park, Bushman said.

Rostek said he didn't know who had found the boy, but there were about 1,000 people on the beach when paramedics arrived.

Witnesses said commotion could be heard from a part of the beach nearest the Bay Bridge before 8 a.m.

"Everyone was hollering, 'He's down, he's down,' and they were diving in the water trying to search for him," said LaSharn Easley from Landover, who also arrived early with family and friends to spend the day on the beach.

"Then two guys started yelling, 'We got him, we got him,'" Easley said.

The boy's body was found more than 150 yards north of where he was last seen, witnesses said.

"People were cheering the Coast Guard guys who brought him out," said Michele Mendez of Wheaton. "But when you saw how lifeless he was, that stopped. Then mothers were just hugging their children and crying."

A park employee administered CPR until paramedics arrived. The boy was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center. Bushman said that paramedics reported that the boy had a "faint" heartbeat on the way to the hospital, but could not be revived.

There had been a near drowning at Sandy Point State Park a couple of weeks ago. Bushman said that a man in his 40s suffered some type of medical condition in the water and had to be pulled out by lifeguards. He was given CPR, and Bushman said the man remains hospitalized.

The drowning is the third reported at a state park or wildlife recreational area since Memorial Day weekend.

Bushman said that the first incident took place on May 27 when the body of a 19-year-old soldier stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground was recovered from the rapids area of Deer Creek near Rocks State Park in the northern Harford County. The Department of Natural Resources later closed off about 150 yards where the first incident occurred, Bushman said.

On May 30, a 20-year-old man from Guatemala who separated from a group of friends swimming in the rain-swollen Monocacy River near Park Mills Road Boat Ramp in Frederick County did not return to his friends. After a three-hour search, the group called 911. His body was recovered the next day.

Bushman called the drowning Sunday "a very tragic circumstance" but characterized the incident as a rare occurrence, given the expected 6 million visitors to the state parks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"When it does happen, it's a good reminder to all of us that we should be aware of all the inherent dangers when swimming in a natural body of water," Bushman said. "Our position is that there's no one to blame. While we caution parents to watch their children near the water, they can get away from you pretty easily."

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of children playing near the incident. There were five or six.The Sun regrets the error.

Sun reporter Candus Thomson and The Washington Post contributed to this article

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

don.markus@baltsun.com

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