One dead after drowning in Newton County

NEWTON Co., Ind. (WLFI) – One person is dead after drowning in JC Murphy Lake at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in Newton County.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, Saul Lopez, 22, of Hammond, was floating on a rubber raft with a friend when it began to lose air around 7 p.m. Saturday.

“Witnesses stated that they went out to one of the small islands and came back in. But there was a small puncture in it and it eventually deflated,” said Conservation Officer Keith Wildeman.

Brian Crissinger, of Goodland, was on the water fishing with his wife near the island. He says he saw two people offer to help them out.

“On the corner of the island someone was sitting there talking to them. Asked them if they needed help, and everything, and they told him ‘no.’ Wouldn’t take their help or nothing. (They) just decided they’d take off,” said Crissinger.

DNR Conservation officers couldn’t confirm whether or not Lopez and his friend were offered help. Officers did say that as the two started to row back to shore as the raft continued to lose air. The two of them then jumped in the water, neither wearing a life jacket, to try push the raft to shore.

“There were no life jackets on boat. Neither victim were wearing a life jacket at the time, and it is a possibility that we are looking at the fact that alcohol may be a contributing factor,” said Wildeman.

Emergency responders arrived and were able to pull Lopez’s friend from the water. After searching until 2 a.m. and all day Sunday, Lopez’s body has not surfaced.

“I haven’t seen anything like that, even on any other lake,” said Wildeman.

Indiana State law doesn’t require people to wear life jackets on boats but they must be accessible on the boat. DNR Conservation officers still advise people to wear them on the water.

“Indiana Conservation officers always want to remind folks that when they’re around the water, to always wear a life jacket. It’ll potentially save your life,” Wildeman.

“When people come out they go out and have fun on the lake, just know how you’re doing it and do it the right way,” said Crissinger.

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