Man dies after being located by divers under 18 feet of water at Geist Reservoir

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INDIANAPOLIS — A man died at the hospital Sunday after being recovered by divers at Geist Reservoir, according to authorities.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has confirmed the victim is identified as 33-year-old Vincent Patton of Indianapolis.

Rescue crews were called to the Geist Marina Sunday afternoon just after 2:40 p.m. for a report of a water rescue. According to the Fishers Fire Department, the first rescue boat was in the water by 2:47 p.m. and authorities recovered Patton from the water just after 3:20 p.m.

“We were taking off on an afternoon cruise and first saw a boat, a DNR probably, with lights on and wondered what was going on and then as we headed out we just began seeing the emergency vehicles coming in and it was just one after another,” said Lynn Hower, who was boating on Geist Reservoir Sunday.

“We were just out here having a picnic and we suddenly heard all of these sirens just going back and forth up and down fall creek and we knew something bad had happened,” said Bill Tellman, who has been boating on Geist Reservoir for more than two decades.

According to the DNR, Patton and another person jumped from a rented pontoon boat that was anchored in the center of the basin. As the boat began to drift from Patton and the other swimmer, witnesses told first responders Patton disappeared under the water and didn’t resurface.

The DNR later shared that Patton was attempting to swim back to the boat after retrieving a clothing item at the time he was last seen. The second person in the water was able to get themselves out and “self rescue,” said Fishers Fire Department (FFD) public information officer, John Mehling.

Officer John Gano of the Indiana DNR said several people on the pontoon boat jumped in to try and help locate Patton, and when they could not find him, they called for help.

Gano said the Indianapolis Sailing Club played a big role in helping locate Patton Sunday afternoon.

According to Gano, members of the club referenced the location Patton was last seen by using a buoy that was out in the water for their race. He said having the buoy gave fire and rescue crews a visual reference, or marker to go off of, which normally would not have been there.

“A number of bystanders were in the area. They were able to mark the area where the man was last seen. That’s tremendous help to the rescuers,” said Mehling.

“You know, it was fortunate that there was a race going on at the time and they were able to help and mark the location with a buoy,” said Tellman, “because you can’t see more than three feet deep in this water.”

Once divers were in the water, Gano said the man was almost immediately located. The area of the lake is described as being around 18 feet deep.

“There are a lot of boats, today it’s windy the waves are choppy out there. It makes it more difficult to navigate on the water for sure,” said Tellman.

Patton was transported to IU Health Saxony Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the DNR.

“My heart goes out to the family and those that are affected by this, it’s just so sad,” said Hower.

“You really have to be careful. Things can happen so quick. You don’t have a second chance a lot of times,” said Tellman. “It’s just a tragic, tragic situation.”

DNR is investigating the incident.

“Two safety messages for boaters is to always have a life vest with you in the water, especially in water you can’t see in,” said FFD Captain John Mehling in a release.

Mehling said he cannot emphasize enough, the importance of wearing a life vest when going in the water, regardless of how strong of a swimmer you are.

“If there’s a medical situation that occurs while you’re in the water, being a strong swimmer doesn’t help you. You’ve got to have those life vests on,” he said.

“In this instance we don’t believe a life vest was involved and it didn’t help the situation at all.”

Mehling also shared that whenever you see an emergency boat in the water, it’s important to stay far away from their location.

Hower said she noticed many boats following this and staying clear of rescue crews as they made their way out on the water.

“People were just staying away, not going toward where the action was happening which is so important, let those professionals do their jobs,” she said.

This incident remains under investigation by the DNR. Other agencies that responded to the scene include the Fishers Fire Department, Indianapolis Fire Department and Fishers Police Department.

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