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Six teens drowned in Shreveport, Louisiana while parents watched

louisiana080410_optBY ALICIA CRUZ
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

It was supposed to be an afternoon of fun, swimming and barbecuing for two Louisiana families and ended in tragedy that began 10 minutes after the group arrived at Charles and Marie Hamel Memorial Park in Shreveport.

A group of teenagers from both families decided to take a dip in the Red River in order to cool off from the day's oppressive heat when one stepped off a slippery ledge, sinking into much deeper water and began drowning. In an effort to rescue him, six more teens dove into the shallow waters, some 20 to 30 feet deep, and all but one also drowned.

Shreveport Fire Chief Brian Crawford said as soon as the first teen was in trouble, the others instinctively rushed to help.

The parents of the teens, who were unable to swim, stood helpless at the shore and watched as their children screamed and struggled before drowning.

"Imagine watching your child drown and not being able to do anything," Crawford told CNN. "Whether you can't swim or don't swim ... you're just gonna go and do what you think you have to do."

A bystander rescued DeKendrix Warner, 15, the sole survivor, who was the first to attempt to save the others. Speaking from his home in Shreveport, he told The Associated Press "I stepped and I started drowning."

Warner, who said he had been going down to the river all week, recalls that he was kicking and felt like the river was pulling him under. When he was finally pulled from the water, he told the man to go help his cousin.

"We were struggling," Warner told The Shreveport Times. "I went down twice and came up. One person reached for me, and before I knew it, all of us were drowning."

Marilyn Robinson told the Associated Press that she also watched helplessly as the victims began struggling in the water. She said the families, including 20 children, were out at a sandbar to barbecue and have a good time. They frequent the area and were familiar with the water, said Robinson, who identified herself as a friend of both families.

"None of us could swim," Robinson told the Associated Press. "They were yelling 'help me, help me. Somebody please help me.' It was nothing I could do but watch them drown one by one."

The names of the teenagers who drowned have been released as brothers Litrelle Stewart, 18; Latevin Stewart, 15; and LaDairus Stewart, 17; and siblings Takeitha Warner, 13; JaMarcus Warner, 14; and JaTavious Warner, 17.

Chief Crawford said divers were committed to retrieving the children's bodies, even as the sun went down.

"I'm a parent, and I can't imagine I've lost my child and then they spend the night at the bottom of a river," he said.

The divers, who said the riverbed drops from a shallow area to about 28 feet deep, said the six teens were found within 20 to 30 feet of each other. Because the divers were wading through "black water," in search of the victims, the recovery took more than two hours.

Investigators, who are trying to reconstruct a timeline of the events leading up to the drownings, say police officers have issued tickets, warnings and even created barriers this summer to discourage people away from the swift Red River, which is a popular spot for boaters who dock their boats and barbecue. But it can be a death trap for someone without a life jacket who cannot swim.

In honor of the children's memory, Chief Crawford told CNN.com that he wants the public to be aware of the river's inherent danger.

"Somebody's going down to that river today, and they don't need to get in the water if they don't know how to swim or have a flotation device."

According to an article in USA Today, USA Swimming, an organization that promotes the culture of swimming by creating opportunities for swimmers and coaches of all backgrounds through clubs, events and education, commissioned a study that showed almost 60 percent of African-American children could not swim.

That's almost twice the figure compared to Caucasian children. The organization, which said that less than 2 percent of its nearly 252,000 members who swim competitively year-round are black, has a two-fold mission, executive director Chuck Wielgus said.

"It's just the right thing to do — making an effort so every kid can be water-safe and quite frankly it's about performance. We're something of a niche sport and for us to remain relevant, considering the changing demographics of the population, it's important we get more kids involved at the mouth of the pipeline," Wielgus told USA Today.

Statistics show that African American children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate. USA Swimming hopes the survey will strengthen its efforts to lower minority-drowning rates and attract more African American's into the sport.

The study, which was completed by five experts at the University of Memphis' Department of Health and Sports Sciences, surveyed 1,772 children aged 6 to 16 in six cities — two-thirds of them black or Hispanic — to gauge the more contributing factors to the minority swimming gap.

The study found that 31% of the white respondents could not swim safely, compared to 58 percent of the blacks. The non-swimming rate for Hispanic children was almost as high at 56 percent, although more than twice as many Hispanics as blacks are now members of the USA Swimming organization.

Swimming officials said the key indicator to lowering the number of minorities who cannot swim is not limited to race, but family — children whose parents are non-swimmers are eight times more likely to drown.

 
Comments (34)
34 Saturday, 28 July 2012 10:44
HOLLIS
AS I READ THE COMMENTS ABOVE, I COULDN'T HELP BUT TO THINK THAT THIS IS SO SAD. THE DROWNING OF THOSE CHILDREN, THE BACKLASHES AT THE PARENTS, AND THE PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THAT "RACE" IS IMPORTANT IN SUCH A TRAGEDY.

FOR ONE, THESE ARE KIDS, COULD HAVE BEEN YOUR OWN OR A KID YOU KNOW. THE ARTICLE NEVER SAID THAT THE KIDS WERE SWIMMING, IT SAID THAT THE FIRST CHILD FELL OFF A LEDGE AND THE OTHERS CAME IN ATTEMPT TO HELP HIM. WHAT THEY THOUGHT WAS "SHALLOW" WATER TURNED OUT TO FALL 28 FEET DEEP, THAT IS HOW THEY DROWNED. AS FAR AS THE PARENTS, YOU CAN NOT FAULT THEM FOR THAT MISHAP. PARENTS ARE NOT PERFECT, IM SURE YOU ARE NOT YOURSELF....SOMEWHERE DOWN THE LINE YOU HAVE OR YOU WILL MESS UP....WE ALL DO!

I DO BELIEVE THAT THOSE WHO DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT THE NEWS REPORT WAS STATING ABOUT "AFRICAN AMERICANS/BLACKS" SWIMMING STATISTICS ARE CLEARLY IGNORANT. THAT REPORT WASN'T TO MAKE BLACKS LOOK BAD, IF ANYTHING, IT WAS TO EDUCATE BLACKS. IT'S TELLING BLACKS THAT IT IS A MUST THAT THEY LEARN AND TEACH THEIR KIDS HOW TO SWIM SO THAT DROWNING AMONG THEIR COMMUNITY COULD BE AVOIDED.

WHITE PEOPLE PLEASE! STOP TALKING ABOUT WHAT BLACKS GET FOR FREE BECAUSE I SEE WHITES IN THE SAME LINE....SOMETIMES THEY GET BEFORE BLACKS AND BLACKS GET THE LEFT OVERS (ROAD HOME PROGRAM RINGS A BELL?) AND BLACKS, PLEASE STOP PULLING THE RACE CARD WHEN YOU SEE STATISTICS ABOUT YOURSELVES. TAKE THAT AS A LEARNING PERIOD. YOU SEE THAT DROWNING, HIV/AIDS/TEEN PREGNANCIES/HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS, ETC. IS THE HIGHEST AMONG YOUR RACE, DON'T BLAME NO ONE (ESPECIALLY WHITES), JUST GET IT TOGETHER! DO YOU THINK IF A WHITE PERSON TOLD ME THAT I WILL BE A COLLEGE DROPOUT BECAUSE MOST BLACKS DROP OUT OF COLLEGE, I WILL SAY THAT SHE/HE IS ONLY SAYING THAT BECAUSE I AM BLACK? NO, I WILL SAY, "REALLY, WELL WATCH ME GRADUATE".

LITTLE BY LITTLE, THE WORLD CHANGES, NOT ALL AT ONE TIME BUT IT STILL CHANGES....SO CAN STATISTICS. DO BETTER PEOPLE. SHOW THOSE FAMILIES RESPECT. MY CONDOLENCES CERTAINLY GO OUT TO THEM.

AND FOR THE BETTER PART OF IT, I DO NOT REGRET ANYTHING THAT I HAVE SAID, I STAND FIRM ON MY WORD. IF YOU PUT BITTERNESS, RESENTMENT, AND IGNORANCE ON THE SIDE, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SEE THROUGH TO MY WORDS IF NOT, CONTINUE TO TOIL IN MISERY BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT IGNORANCE IS.
Why
33 Tuesday, 28 February 2012 07:27
Love/ Peace/ an long suffering
Why dose it matter if these kids had PSP's or Xboxs or what shoes they wore or that they were even Black some one has to live every dying day with out their children and no one knows what truly happend because they were not there and these children had to have done this before and had no problems because the article indacates that at lest one of these children had been going down to the river all week and as a swimmer who is Black I know that it is harder trying to save some one whom is not cailm and that alone could and will cost you your life. It's sad how whites try to proclaim that a black person is able to get things they are not able if you would like to go into history it is a proven fact that there are more white pepole on walefare and assitance programs than blacks that whites receive the same assistance blacks do but that has nothing to do with the situation at hand because white children could be in the same situation and this would have made it on the news world wide. I send all my love and pain to the family I'm am sorry for your lost my Jehovah be with you.
32 Thursday, 26 August 2010 18:12
Sink to the Bottom`
So many people asking, "why's race gotta be brought into this?" The article clearly brought race into the situation. And another article (ap) said it harkened from the times of segregation...(puke).....BS! Just a whole lot of s-t-u-p-i-d and a pound of dumb! Seem's blacks never wanna take responsibility for their actions, always cause a da man!
Blacks get everything given to them, a hell of a lot more than whitey! All the AA opportunities, free schooling, medical, dental. All the things, I have to pay for.
But all they wanna do is whine! Call me what you want! I got eye's, and I been around a lot of black folk's, so, I know the deal!
31 Saturday, 21 August 2010 19:10
Life Jacket is IMPORTANT!
"I don't know how to put it in to words, My heart goes out the the family and friends of those lost." Family, please Look for Jehovah Witnesses they can help.I lost my daughter 3 years ago. she died inside of me. and i lost all hope and fell in depression and the jehovah witnesses were there for me.
30 Saturday, 21 August 2010 18:57
Life Jacket is IMPORTANT!
"Oh my god, i totally forgot to mention, please always ask questions when buying a LIFE JACKET". Its IMPORTANT to get the RIGHT FITTING when trying on a LIFE jacket. Like i said, its VITAL to WEAR a LIFE JACKET!
29 Saturday, 21 August 2010 18:49
Life Jacket is IMPORTANT!
"It is extremely important to WEAR a Life Jacket. A Life Jacket will save your life even if you don't know how to swim." Having one is not going help you- you need to wear it! Anyways, i would recommend to buy a type 3 life jacket.My husband bought me one yesterday at Academy Sport and Outdoor. Don't buy a cheap one are expensive one. I would recommend to buy one that cost from $40.00-$70.00. You want to feel safe and secure. you would also want to buy a whistle, so you can blow on it and someone can get to you faster, also something that glows in dark that you can hang in life jacket. Wearing a Life Jacket is extremely important, it can save your-your life, so please buy one and wear it.
28 Saturday, 21 August 2010 18:47
Life Jacket is IMPORTANT!
"It is extremely important to WEAR a Life Jacket. A Life Jacket will save your life even if you don't know how to swim." Having one is not gonno help you- you need to wear it! Anyways, i would recommend to buy a type 3 life jacket.My husband bought me one yesterday at Academy Sport and Outdoor. Don't buy a cheap one are expensive one. I would recommend to buy one that cost from $40.00-$70.00. You want to feel safe and secure. you would also want to buy a whistle, so you can blow on it and someone can get to you faster, also something that glows in dark that you can hang in life jacket. Wearing a Life Jacket is extremely important, it can save your-your life, so please buy one and wear it.
27 Saturday, 07 August 2010 23:35
(KeeKee
For crying out loud two families have lost their children... I am a mother of three children and couldnt even imagine losing one let alone all three!!! You should be ashamed of yourselves for disrespecting the families like this how could you be so cruel and careless!!!!! Its not about who is at fault but come on people no one knew this was going to happen to them...... I feel so sorry for the Stewart and Warner family i am so sorry and am praying for you.. And for all you ignorant people yal need to shut the **** up!!!!
26 Friday, 06 August 2010 17:44
Gloria Young
My heart goes out to these families in this great loss. I can not imagine how these family members must have felt having to watch these teens drown one by one. I am praying that God grants them his comfort during this time. This is truly a tragedy, but pointing fingers and casting blame or worrying about who's going to file a lawsuit serves no positive purpose, none of this will bring these teens back. What we can nad must do is take measures to keep this from happening again. Again, my heart goes out to these families and they have my deepest sympathy.
25 Thursday, 05 August 2010 19:44
Juanita Broden
It makes no sense to place blame on the parents. It has happened and its done and over with. The only thing to do now is pray for the families of these children. My deepest and most heartfelt prayers go out to the families, may God give you peace. And may God have mercy on the people that had the audacity to show such blatant disrespect towards the parents. " Judge not that ye be judged."
24 Thursday, 05 August 2010 16:55
vernon
One could certainly make the argument that the parents of these kids have already suffered the worst punishment imaginable and that to do anything else to them would be both superfluous and cruel. I can accept that. Otherwise I would say they should go jail. If not for criminally negligent homicide, then at least for criminally negligent stupidity. This isn't hard folks. Either teach your children to swim or teach them to stay out of rivers.
23 Thursday, 05 August 2010 16:22
Joe Wong
First of all, if you can't swim, don't go to some swift river and decide that it's ok to dip in. The parents are really dumb to think that it's ok to let this happen. It is a horrible thing to happen, but really common sense just few out the window. That's why the parents win the Darwin Award.
It's sad, but they should have known better.
22 Thursday, 05 August 2010 15:56
Tyla
This is so sad it brings tears to my eyes.. May the six teens rest in peace.. My prayers, heart, and sympathy is with their families..
21 Thursday, 05 August 2010 14:54
Jack Dannu
Considering the weight of these individuals they should of had a decent natural buoyancy. It seemed as if they had to TRY to drown themselves. Honestly, if you're but in a situation like that you shouldn't panic because if you do you'll just drown.
20 Thursday, 05 August 2010 14:40
a human
Fascinating how some jump to pull the race card immediately when the word "black" is placed next to stupid misfortune. The article explains quite fairly the statistics that support the argument that african-americans do not learn to swim in the same numbers that "other" races do. Of course, I can't compare "black" to "white" statistics, because that would be racist. Does anybody see how this system of finger-pointing prevents society from helping ANY group locate and repair racial inequities. I pay full price at the YMCA for lessons, but native americans learn to swim there for free. Am I a racist to point this out? I'm sure some angry, ignorant fool will brand me as one.
19 Thursday, 05 August 2010 11:53
Grana
Unless I missed something, I can't find any where in this article that said the teenages could not swim. It said none of the parents could swim. Don't be so hard on the parents they have to live with this the rest of their lives. If not for the grace of God it could be you or me that this happened to. Race has nothing to do with it.
18 Thursday, 05 August 2010 11:03
BoyohBoy
Why is race even a factor in this?! Some of you people are pathetic. Thanks for confirming that BIGGOTRY is alive and well! Kids of ALL races have drowned. My prayers go out to the family.
17 Thursday, 05 August 2010 10:04
traci
ohh my GOD ...i cried when i read this story..those poor children..may you all rest in piece..and for the 2 families, i know that you will never get over this and i am so sorry for you..my heart aches for you..
then when they started talking about blacks...are you kidding me 6 human beings drowned and as horrific as that is..what difference does it make what *ucking color they were....whoever pulled the race card in this story should be ashamed of themselves..
16 Thursday, 05 August 2010 09:48
Baffled
WTF? Black people usually don't do dumb stuff like this. What parent is going to let their children that can not swim get into a river?! What nonswimmer wants to get into a river!!!
I am not a mother, but I am an aunt that cares deeply for all my nieces and nephews. I can not swim, but my nieces and nephews can. Whenever we are near pools, they are NOT allowed to get in, simply because "I" can not swim and therefore can not protect / save them if they get into trouble in the water. I don't care if they are excellent swimmers. It's all about what's best for the children. If you can not protect your child in the situation, STAY OUT of the situation! Dumb ass parents! They should be charged with neglect!!!
15 Thursday, 05 August 2010 06:49
Tony S
This is a text book example of Social Darwinism, and sadly Social Darwinism does not take any prisoner.
14 Thursday, 05 August 2010 00:45
Trinity
I am from Shreveport, born and bread. For those who never been in that situation but have something negative to say GO STRAIGHT TO HELL!!! The family just lost 6 kids and criticism is not what needs to be at hand here.
13 Thursday, 05 August 2010 00:10
Selamawit
How can you be so judgemental? If god says it happens it will happen. Even people who could swim, can drown. In this kind of situation you would do anything to save your family, you don't think you act. Even if it means your putting yourself in danger. I wonder how you people can sit there and judge the family when they didn't have a choice. My heart goes out to the two families and may the children rest in peace.
12 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 22:48
Lynette
I smell six lawsuits cooking. Can't wait to see how fast the first one gets filed. The sad reality is the insurance company will pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the parents who knew full well their children could not swim, but because of their lack of discipline all but condoned them getting in the river and sending them to their death. I would not even allow my dog to get close to water if I didn't know for sure she could swim. It's called responsibility - - it's a big word, but one you should become familiar with BEFORE you become a parent.
11 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 22:18
Dee Hans
It is a very sad day when so many from one family is called home to God, and the parents watch, but to have it happen at the same time from two families who came together to enjoy the summer afternoon. So Sad. My heart goes out to them, I can not imagine their pain, I hope that in time they will be able to move on with their lives and perhaps they can find something to turn their tragedy into something positive for their community.
10 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 22:00
Ashley Finister
I prey for the Two Families....."GOD PLEASE BE WITH THEM"! I read all of the comments and The article, It can happen to anyone anywhere, no matter how good they can swim. I don't know anyone who can swim when shallow water caves in, NO ONE. I can swim but, 20 to 30 feet...I can't! I had to teach myself when I was young, because my single mother couldn't afford for me to take lessons. It has nothing to do with race, people should be preying for the family....not judging. They're in a much better place, no worries and no heartache. NOW THEY'RE FREE, WE STILL IN A BATTLE ZONE!
9 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 21:38
John Fife
I wonder if any of these kids had expensive shoes, an PS-3 or gold teeth, could they not afford swimming lessons? I paid for my kids and they were less than the price of one pair of K SWISS ... Not to mention that the YMCA has a program for "under privileged" children.. Not mine of course I have to pay since I fall in the "middle class rich" sector.
8 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 20:24
Brandy
My heart goes out the the family and friends of those lost. I can not imagine losing a child let alone 3 at a time. I understand that none of the adults there could swim but I DO NOT understand how as a parent could you stand there and watch them drown and not do anything to help them!! If that was my child I don't care if I could swim or not I would of done something to save my child!! I would of gone down with my child if need be but I would of gone down fighting to save my children!! God Bless the bystander who was brave enough to get into the water and save a child that he didn't even know!! It's good to know that there are still good people like him out there!
7 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 18:14
Big Red
I have lived in Shreveport/Bossier all 27 years of my life and I cannot count the number of times my parents or older family members have told me not to go swimming in the Red River. I am quite a good swimmer, but I have been told that the strong undercurrent is no match for even a strong swimmer like me. The Blame then falls upon plain old common sense.

My condolences to the family of the victims. I first saw this article on my job homepage and couldn't believe it happened in my own city.
6 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 17:49
Sad but Could've been avoided
I DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW THE PARENTS THOUGHT IT WAS OK FOR THEIR CHILDREN TO GET INTO THE RIVER WHEN NONE OF THEM COULD SWIM.

Don't get me wrong, this is a terrible story. But, the parents are at fault for being careless. Mother nature played her part but if they can't *ucking swim then they shouldn't have been in the water
5 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 17:41
mikeba
"How and Why does it have to come down to the 'race' of individuals?"

Cause seven people and several adults could not swim. That's odd and when asking why? Well there you go. I'm surprised the article went there as America is so PC.
4 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 17:06
Kimberly
This is so very sad. I have three children. One can swim, two cannot. I am not a strong swimmer.

Some of the news articles I have read about this tragic story point out the statistics of African Americans that cannot swim. The high percentage is not a surprise me.

For various reasons, I'm sure a lot of it is economic, I don't believe we as parents, of African American children have put a lot of effort into making sure are children learn to swim. This may be considered a "want", when many of us are trying to ensure that our "needs" are met. Some of us want "too late" and then our children, at least mine, developed a "fear" of water (submerging their heads, etc.)

This is a sad wake up call. We need to consider directing funds from expensive gym shoes, name brand apparel, and video games to an activity such as swimming. Not only is it healthy (in this sedimentary society of tv, texting, and video games), it's money well spent.

For those that cannot afford to pay, check your local Boys and Girls club, or YMCA clubs. They will sometimes offer scholarship memberships to needy families.

Six young teens- gone. My condolences to the families.
3 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 15:51
Sheryl Van Arsdale
I cannot express the great sorrow and loss I feel for you. Please know that your children have touched my heart and I will say a prayer for you and your angels.
2 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 15:29
Petra
My prayers are with the families of the children who have passed away. It brings alot of awareness to other people.Its just a shame something trajic happened in order for others to learn.
1 Wednesday, 04 August 2010 15:05
Bob Waters
How and Why does it have to come down to the 'race' of individuals?
These kids couldn't swimPERIOD. They drowned. Very sad that their parents were that ignorant as to have their kids playing in water when they couldn't do so safely. I guess the government can hand out all sorts of things to make life easier for people. Looks like they need to be guaranteed swimming lessons also.

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