Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Meramec Claims Another Child

Missouri's Meramec River. Looks serene in the picture, doesn't it? I am quite familiar with it and with its dangerous reputation. And sadly, it has claimed the life of yet another little boy.

12-year-old Christopher Marks disappeared into the river's currents after reportedly consuming a small amount of beer, and telling his family or friends he wanted to go across the river to swing on a rope swing. It wasn't long before he disappeared. They found his body today near a pier.

The Meramec has a storied history. Formerly one of Missouri's most polluted rivers, it has since been largely cleaned up and is a popular stream for paddling and boating. Up near its origin, it is a typical clear Ozark stream, with the water turning an aqua green the deeper it gets. But when it begins getting closer to St. Louis, the river widens, deepens and becomes much more murky. The river is known to have very strong undercurrents in this stretch, and the underwater terrain of the river can change daily. At the park where this child drowned, there are signs posted warning of the dangers.

I believe this is at least the 10th drowning in that particular stretch of the Meramec in recent years. Several kids from a youth group drowned a few years back near the same location.

I don't want to pile on to a grieving family. The articles that you can find and the various comments being made range from sympathetic to harshly judgmental. Obviously a 12-year-old has no business consuming alcohol, and that aspect is being investigated by the authorities. Regardless of this, the grieving mother, father, friends and siblings need our compassion and prayers.

Above all, I do wish there was something that could be done to keep kids and brainless adults out of this river as far as swimming is concerned. Paddlers and reasonably experienced canoe people should have little difficulty, equipped with the proper flotation devices. But this is not a swimming river, especially not in the location where all the drownings take place.

Sad, sad, sad.

Update to story: Christopher's body was found six miles downstream from where he went in. According to media, that appears to perplex the authorities a bit. Here's the story from local media.

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