Three girls were swimming in the Arkansas River at Lock & Dam 13 Saturday (June 17) and at some point two of the girls got caught in a current. According to the sheriff, 18-year-old Eric Santiago Antonio jumped in to help save them.
"He went out, he was able to help one, maybe both females, but he was still struggling with the little boy," Sheriff Brown said. "A fisherman went out and was able to save the boy and our victim went down right as our witness was going into the water and he never resurfaced."
One of the girls had to be revived by EMS, according to Brown. All three girls, ages 5, 14 and 17, were treated at a local hospital and are expected to make a full recovery.
A dive team from Johnson County helped with the search using imaging radars and sonars Sunday along with crews from Sebastian County.
Those with the Johnson County Dive Team said the area where the group was swimming was treacherous.
"Where the young man drowned, there's a lot of whirlpools," Darrell Plank, president of Johnson County Dive Team said. "It's real difficult when the water is coming up and continues to do that."
Crews said the weather conditions affected the search in many ways including halting the search Sunday morning and even preventing dive teams from going into the water.
"The river came up three feet in about four and a half hours," Plank said. "Any time it rises that fast, it's really difficult to control your boat. We're sonar first and dive second. Sonar is very critical to the waves and the current."
Sheriff Brown is urging people to stay safe while on the water.
"These were just some kids and young adults just out having a good time on the weekend," Sheriff Brown said. "The Arkansas River is very dangerous to swim in. I suggest if you're going to swim in it, wear some type of personal flotation device. Like these folks, they were swimming, got caught in the current and just couldn't get out."
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