During a press conference on Sunday evening, Merrill authorities confirmed a drowning accident occurring at a local park, involving a 13-year-old Mosinee boy.
According to Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone, firefighters/paramedics from the Merrill Fire Department as well as officers from the Merrill Police Department and deputies from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, responded to Ott’s Park at approximately 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, upon being dispatched to a call of a missing swimmer.
Savone stated the victim was reportedly accompanied by his mother and three other minors while attempting to swim from the shoreline near the park to a nearby island in the Wisconsin River when the incident occurred.
Following initial assessment of the scene, assistance was requested and answered by dive teams from the Tomahawk Fire Department and Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. After four hours of fighting the swift current and debris below the water surface, the victim was recovered at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Savone stated the victim was discovered by a Tomahawk Fire Department dive team member, approximately 15 feet from where he reportedly lost contact with the rest of his group.
Sheriff’s deputies and paramedics reported the victim did not display any sign of life upon discovery, according to Savone.
“We were very fortunate to have received mutual aid assistance from several agencies today,” Savone stated. “Along with the assistance of dive teams, several area fire departments responded including the towns of Pine River and Corning. Wisconsin Public Service played a key role in assisting us today by lowering the water level over four feet, which in turn made search efforts easier.”
The water depth where the victim was recovered was estimated to be 8-9 feet.
As Savone explained, WPS operates dams north and south of the incident location. By their swift response in closing one dam and opening another, the relatively high water level and powerful current caused by recent heavy rains, was reduced significantly.
Merrill Police Chief Ken Neff stated the area where the incident took place was not a designated swimming area, but there are not existing regulations or ordinance prohibiting swimming.
Authorities stated the victim’s identity was not being released as of Sunday evening.
UPDATE: The victim has been identified as Damon Michael Johnson, 13, of Mosinee.