Heartbreak; Child drowns at Eagle Mountain Lake

By Brandon Evans | Published Saturday, July 14, 2012
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MISSING PIPPER – The day after the tragic drowning of 5-year-old Pipper Sasnett, visitors to Shady Grove Park at Eagle Mountain Lake take a swim in the designated swimming area. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A 5-year-old girl from Paradise drowned in Eagle Mountain Lake late Wednesday afternoon.

Pipper Sasnett was swimming with a group of people in the designated swimming area of Eagle Mountain Lake at Azle’s Shady Grove Park when she went under about 6 p.m. The girl was unresponsive by the time medics arrived, said Chad Lorance, spokesperson for Tarrant Regional Water District.

She was transported to Cook Children’s Medical Center by helicopter where she was pronounced dead at the emergency room at 7 p.m. Lorance said district officers, working in conjunction with the Azle Police Department, are still investigating the tragedy and interviewing witnesses to find out exactly what happened. He said they will release more information when it becomes available.

WITNESS TO TRAGEDY – Robert Wright witnessed the horrible scene from the day earlier as family frantically searched for Pipper Sasnett and rescuers tried to revive her after she was found. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“It was terrible,” said Robert Wright, a fisherman from White Settlement who arrived moments before the nightmare occurred. “We had just gotten here and were unpacking our rods when a lady started asking if anyone had seen a little blonde-haired girl.”

Wright said he and his wife, Laurie Downey, started searching along a stretch of the lake when she was found.

“I saw a guy come tearing out of the water screaming ‘I got her! I got her!,'” Wright said. “He’d just found her at a drop-off in the swimming area.”

The man carried Pipper to the beach, and police officers immediately started performing CPR on her.

“The girl’s mother was holding her hand screaming, ‘Pipper, wake up! Pipper wake up! Please, God, don’t take her!'”

“I couldn’t do anything but cry,” he added. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. It was a really sad day. It was unbelievable something like that could happen to a little girl.

“But the rescue workers did all they could do, and the man who found her in the water was my hero no matter what happened. God didn’t want her in that water, and he got her out of there.”

The swimming area, which is marked off by bright orange buoys, is shallow but contains several unseen drop-offs that suddenly plunge to 5 feet deep or more.

Just one day later, kids were splashing in the water and tossing around footballs on the beach, they had no idea such a tragedy had occurred there less than 24 hours earlier.

“This swimming area is extremely shallow,” said Sam Birkner of Fort Worth, who was swimming at the park on Thursday. “It’s only a few feet deep at the most. But there are a few holes out there. I’ve stepped in them. You can’t see them because the water is so murky. But they drop 2 to 3 feet and the water goes from my waist up to my neck immediately. If a small child stepped in one, you couldn’t see them even if they were right next to you.”

The swimming area at the park has no lifeguard on duty and has no warning signs of the sudden drops in depth. On the day of the accident, there were dozens of people on the beach and in the water.

“There should be signs out here warning of the drop-offs,” Wright said.

The park is maintained by the city of Azle.

DANGER BELOW? – Although the exact cause of Wednesday’s drowning is still under investigation, some swimmers Thursday reported that the swimming area has many sudden drop-offs several feet deep. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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