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Sandy Point State Park Reviewing Safety Procedures After July 4th Drowning

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The drowning of a 6-year-old at Sandy Point State Park has the park service reviewing safety procedures.

As Alex DeMetrick reports, the July 4th tragedy is the first in recent memory and might bring on new rules.

Even when calm, the Chesapeake Bay can bring surprises, like large wakes from passing ships.

“Also the tides come in and out, the currents of the bay,” said Alison Woodfield, park ranger.

On Monday, huge 4th of July crowds were an additional element. But what caused 6-year-old Saquan Kennedy to suddenly go under and drown remains under investigation.

His young sister was with him.

“I saw a little girl crying, and she said ‘I can’t find him.  I can’t find him,’” said Nasheau Williams, witness.

“My dad felt the boy on his leg, so he picked him up and said ‘Here he is, here he is,’ and then he brought him to the sand and someone performed CPR on him,” recalled Randy Watts, witness.

Along with police, State Parks is looking for answers.

“We take it very seriously, so we are conducting an after action review of the incident to determine what, if anything, can be done to prevent this from happening again in the future,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Bushman, deputy superintendent of Park Service.

It happened on the park’s South Beach around 8 a.m. It’s a section without lifeguards but with lots of posted warnings.

Guards only work designated swim areas but don’t come on duty until 10 a.m.

“I think the lifeguards should be here once the people get here,” Watts said.

Staffing is one element of the after action study.

“We review our operations procedures, our beach policies and also the actions of the individuals involved, both the victim and family and our staff,” Lt. Col. Bushman said.

While areas in Sandy Point State Park without lifeguards do remain open to swimming,  no one with the Park Service is recommending it.

“We offer lifeguards near our guarded beaches,” Woodfield said, “So we encourage families to swim near the lifeguard, and we encourage families and anyone else to never swim alone.  Swim with a buddy.”

Bushman says the Park Service is reviewing policy changes, including hiring more lifeguards and extending that zone of protection– to keep a day at the beach a pleasant memory.

Recommendations from the safety review are expected shortly and will be passed on to the Park Service superintendent for consideration.

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