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Friday, September 14, 2012

Two more drownings bring year's total to 6

Two men from Williamsburg drowned about 1:20 p.m. Saturday in Smith Mountain Lake after leaving a boat to swim in the Beach Island area in Bedford County.

According to Al Busch of Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire/Rescue, a call came in reporting two people missing in the water near R6 at Anthony Home Road in Huddleston.

Four Fire/Rescue boats, as well as fire and rescue units from Bedford County and officers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, responded.

Side-scan sonar was employed and a Marine Fire/Rescue diver, Brandon Gautier, discovered the bodies of Kelvin Staffon, 18, and Daniel Leannis, 47, about 30 feet from shore.

The bodies were recovered about 2 p.m., according to Sgt. Bryan Young of VDGIF, who said it appeared that Staffon, who could not swim, began to struggle in the water and that Leannis attempted to help him before both men went under in about 15 feet of water. The men were not wearing life jackets.

According to Busch, two female companions were on the shore of Beach Island at the time of the incident. Two dogs also were on the beach, and one of the women instructed a Rottweiler to swim out to the men. The dog was pulled in the struggle, but was able to swim back to shore, he said.

The drowning victims' boat was towed to Mitchell's Point Marina in Huddleston, where staff was "very helpful" to the female passengers who witnessed the event, Busch said.

In a similar situation, Busch said potential rescuers should throw a flotation device such as a cushion, life jacket or ring to a person experiencing trouble in the water.

"The last thing you want to do is jump in, even if you're a really good swimmer," he said. "And if you are going to go, put a life jacket on yourself."

Six people, two of them children, have drowned this year at Smith Mountain Lake.