COLUMBIA — Adults who tried to save two Ashland children electrocuted while swimming in the Lake of the Ozarks on Wednesday felt the tingle of electric current when they ran into the water after them, officials who spoke of the tragedy said.
Thirteen-year-old Alexandra Anderson and her 8-year-old brother, Brayden — the children of Brian and Angela Anderson of Ashland — were swimming near the 6.5-mile marker in the Gravois Arm of the lake near a private dock when they were shocked by an electric current.
Sgt. Paul Reinsch of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said that the dock was not properly grounded, but that details of the electrical problem remain unclear and would be difficult to pinpoint. The patrol's Marine Operations Division plans a full investigation.
Reinsch said that the shock could have come from a number of sources, including underwater wiring for pumps and lighting. The dock that the children were swimming at had a slide that would have needed underwater wiring, Reinsch said.
Moreau Fire Protection District Chief David Papen said rescuers arrived on the scene and found adults giving the children CPR in tandem. Although Papen wasn't there, he said his firefighters told stories of heroism.
Adults ran into the water to rescue the children after hearing them scream, he said. But rescuers had to retreat when they felt an electric charge.
“Someone had the good sense to call them back out and shut off the power to the dock, from what it sounds like,” Papen said. “That’s the difference between two people dying and 50 people dying trying to rescue them.”
With the power off, rescuers immediately pulled the children from the water and began giving them CPR. Mid-Missouri Ambulance District administrator Lee Kempf said many bystanders responded. It was unclear precisely who gave first aid. A registered nurse and an off-duty EMT were reportedly at the scene.
“There are a million people who stepped up and did good things,” Kempf said.
Kempf's ambulance district transported the children to Lake Regional Hospital. One was airlifted from the Golden Beach police station; another was taken by ambulance. Both were pronounced dead at the hospital.
Child pathologist Keith Norton* will conduct autopsies in Springfield. Kempf noted that Missouri law requires autopsies and an investigation by a child fatality review board, convened by the county prosecutor, when children younger than 18 die from circumstances that have not been closely tracked by a pediatrician.
Kempf said Morgan County lacks the authority to require inspections of electrical wiring around docks. Many Missouri counties, under statute, must rely on the state legislature to pass laws or give county commissions the authority to establish regulations.
The accident occurred near the town of Barnett in a community known as Golden Beach, on the Gravois Arm of the lake. It lies northwest of Osage Beach, near Gravois Mills.
Jeremy Robinson told the Missourian and others in an email that he doesn't know the Andersons closely, but has a lake home a few doors down from the site of the tragedy. His children, he said, had been swimming nearby on Wednesday.
"The Anderson family lost two of their three children in this horrific, unusual accident. Let's please raise some money to help this family. And please add this family in your prayers. ... My heart pours out for their loss," he wrote on the website.
Ashland residents also are dealing with the loss and pledging to support the family. Dorcas Nichols, who lives near the Andersons, said they've come to visit a couple of times. They are neighbors and friends.
“A really nice family, the kids are awesome and polite,” Nichols said. “People in the community will try everything to help them out. ... I just want them to know that we are always with them.”
Sharon Donley lives about a quarter-mile from the Andersons. She said the local school plans to make counselors available to talk with children.
“I am sure the whole community is grieving,” Donley said.
Robinson Funeral Home is handling arrangements for Alexandra and Brayden. A date and details for services will be announced later.
Missourian reporters Xinrui Zhu and Fareeha Amir contributed to this report.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.