JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — It has been four days since an 18-year-old Mountain Vista High School graduate drowned at the Chatfield Reservoir.
On Monday, crews from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, West and South Metro Fire Rescue, and Arapahoe Rescue Patrol continued their recovery mission above and below water hoping to bring Aric Whitacre’s heartbroken family some closure.
Crews started the day with three strong target spots identified by sonar equipment. However, the recovery mission still continues Monday evening.
“This is a very tragic and saddening experience for the family so we want to be able to help them out and get their son out of the water,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Jason Clay said.
At the entrance of the park, complete strangers decided to make signs to alert park goers to stay away from the search perimeter.
“My sister shared this story on facebook and it just kind of, it touched us,” Monica Adame said, adding “When people see the signs there’s a lot of shock on their faces, like disbelief. A lot of people do a double take and read it and their mouths drop.”
CPW officials say drownings are happening at a shocking rate this year.
“This is honestly unprecedented — how many flat-water or lake-related fatalities we have had this year,” Colorado Boating Safety Program Manager Grant Brown said.
CPW reports there have been 23 drownings in 2020, 20 of them in lakes.
“A lot of people swimming from shore, smaller craft paddling,” Brown said, adding “Biggest thing we are seeing no life jackets, either one on board not wearing it or not having one.”
According to CPW, there’s typically an average of 11 or 12 drownings a year and 23 drownings is one fatality shy of their highest year total.
“Sometimes we’re working double drownings, one weekend we had five in two days,” Brown said.
Aric Whitacre’s loved ones say he was a good swimmer. He was supposed to go to Navy bootcamp in less than two weeks. They were told he was hanging out with his friend in waist deep water when he was blindsided by an 18-foot drop and panicked.
CPW says the waters are unpredictable and can quickly become dangerous for even the best swimmers. They ask everyone to wear a life vest no matter what your skill set is as a layer of protection.
“Our hearts go out to the family and we’re trying to do whatever we can to pull their young man out of the water,” Clay said.