After 2012 drowning tragedies, Marshalltown set eyes on safety

T-R FILE PHOTOS - Family and friends watch as divers with the Story County Sheriff’s Office search for a 10-year-old Marshalltown boy who went missing June 19, 2012 near the Center Street Dam on the Iowa River. Crews later found his body shortly near the dam.

It has been nearly six years since Marshalltown was confronted with the devastating news of the drownings of four young children.

On June 19, 2012, near the Center Street dam on the Iowa River, 10-year-old Andres Favela-Lopez went missing after going for a swim with friends. After a search, his body was recovered the next day.

Two weeks later, on July 4, search crews were called for the report of three young cousins who had gone missing after swimming in the turbulent waters of the Iowa River near Riverview Park.

Boats were deployed and shortly after search and rescue efforts commenced, the bodies of Lee Meh, 9, Se Rey, 7, and Thay Mo, 7, were pulled from the river.

This affected our community — the pure heartbreak and anguish overtook all of us as we realized these children were our own. They went to our schools, played with our kids and contributed to our rich diversity.

Now, six years later, a string of recent drownings has captivated our attention.

In a span of five days, four people were rescued or recovered from popular bodies of water in Central Iowa.

It was announced Tuesday that Landyn Short, the 9-year-old Tama boy who was pulled from the murky waters of Rock Creek State Park Sunday and flown to a Des Moines hospital, had died.

A 2-year-old girl who was rescued from Big Creek State Park lake also succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday.

And those are just the kids.

A 42-year-old Minnesota man drowned near Lake Red Rock and the body of a 79-year-old man was recovered from the Des Moines River in Wapello County.

The news seemed surreal as it felt like just yesterday we were reporting on this. It opened up wounds of a community that is still healing, but reminded us of how much we have done to avoid repeating history.

In the years since we lost four of our own, we have not only grieved as a community, but we have banded together as responsible citizens searching for solutions and ensuring every child has a safe place to swim.

The Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, along with support from several community leaders and businesses, has taught more than 500 youngsters water safety through its Teach Them to Swim program launched in 2012.

Marshalltown resident Leigh Bauder continues to spearhead fundraising for a splash pad in the community through the Splash 4 Life campaign, which would offer a safe place for water recreation.

Mitchell Family Funeral Home has again sponsored a day at the Marshalltown Family Aquatic Center to ensure everyone has the opportunity to swim in a controlled environment despite their ability to pay. It will take place on July 29 this year.

In six short years, a lot has been done to avoid similar tragedies thanks to the commitment from the community.

We must continue our efforts in ensuring the safety of our citizens by continuing these programs and fundraising. If you haven’t, consider donating to the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA or the Splash 4 Life campaign. If you can’t donate, help stress the importance to a child about water safety.

If we can save just one life through these efforts we have done our job.