National Resources Police Captain Brian Rathgeb talks about the drowning death of Kaniya Kelly, 12, of Baltimore, at an unguarded beach at Sandy Point Park Tuesday evening.

A 12-year-old Baltimore girl drowned Tuesday at Sandy Point State Park after being pulled under by a current in a “no swimming” area, Maryland Natural Resources Police said Wednesday.

Rescue crews found Kaniya Kenly’s body about 40 yards off shore at about 11 p.m., after nearly five hours of searching.


At a news conference Wednesday morning at the park’s marina, Capt. Brian Rathgeb of the Maryland Natural Resources Police said the agency got a call about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for a potential drowning. At some point, he said, four children were left alone by the beach.

The children, ages 11 to 15 years old, went into an area marked “no swimming,” Rathgeb said. It’s an area reserved for fishing, he said.

Kaniya was overcome by the force of the current, while the other children made it to safety, he said.

Kaniya was at the park as part of a group outing with 14 others, natural resources police said.

Two fisherman saw the girl struggling and tried to rescue her, Rathgeb said. But the current was too strong and the fishermen could not reach her, he said, and she went under.

Fire officials brought dive teams in, and rescuers used side-scan sonar in their search. They continued looking after it grew dark. Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Anne Arundel County and Annapolis fire departments helped with the search.

“We’re already at the average for the whole year, and that’s what causes us pause at this point,” Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson said.

After Kaniya’s body was found, she was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, according to Maryland Natural Resources Police.

Swimming in the bay is not like swimming in a pool because the currents are strong, Rathgeb said.

"It is a terrible tragedy," he added.

Maurice Carter, who lives next door to the Kenlys in West Baltimore’s Coppin Heights/Ash-Co-East neighborhood, said Kaniya was a sweet girl “always had a smile.” He said he saw her Tuesday afternoon with other neighborhood kids before she went to Sandy Point.

“I asked the kids the other day who was ready to go back to school,” he said, “and she was the only one who wanted to go back.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.