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Cranberry Lake claims Skagit teen

A 15-year-old Mount Vernon boy drown Thursday afternoon while swimming in Cranberry Lake, a popular recreational spot in Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island.

Recreational divers helped rescue workers recover the body of James Garrard at about 6:20 p.m., nearly two hours after the boy went under.

According to the Island County Sheriff’s Office, Garrard had been at the lake most of the day with a group of friends. They were swimming in the roped-off swimming area that is popular with swimmers of all ages.

One of Garrard’s friends tried to help after noticing that Garrard was having trouble swimming and was “thrashing around,” according to Chief Administrative Deputy Jan Smith.

The boy swam out and was able to bring Garrard to the surface, but the friend became exhausted and had to swim to shore. Within about 20 seconds, Garrard went back under the surface as his friend watched over his shoulder.

The freshwater lake is about 20 feet deep, but it’s not easy to search. The water is murky this time of the year, with the vegetation and muck from the bottom constantly being stirred up by human activity.

Several local divers who were in the park for the day volunteered to help find Garrard. Jeffrey James of the Marine Services Rescue team from the Cornet Bay Marina was present, as were Chris Seabolt and Jason Clark.

Several park rangers, firefighters from Island County Fire District 2, emergency medical staff from Whidbey General Hospital and the sheriff’s Marine Safety Unit responded. The unit has two wave runners from a Yamaha Law Loan program through Skagit Power Sports.

What caused Garrard to struggle in the water and go under is currently unknown. The Island County coroner’s office will be performing an autopsy, but there’s no preliminary findings.

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