A group outing by a Lawrence County personal care home to Moraine State Park turned fatal Thursday afternoon when one of the residents was found face down in shallow water and pronounced dead a short time later in what appeared to be a rare drowning by a swimmer at the site.
The man was identified Friday as Dennis Sallmen, 52, who had been living at a care home in New Wilmington.
Bystanders and emergency responders unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate Mr. Sallmen after a witness pulled him from the waters of Lake Arthur.
An autopsy was conducted Thursday, but results indicating the cause and manner of death remain pending toxicology tests.
Dustin Drew, the park’s manager, said state park rangers continue to investigate. He added that he had no indication that criminal charges would be filed.
An administrative assistant with the Butler County coroner’s office would not name the personal care home that brought residents to the Butler County park.
Mr. Drew identified the care home, but no record of a home matching that name could be found in an online database maintained by the Department of Public Welfare, which regulates personal care homes.
Allison Gantz, a department spokeswoman, was unable to verify Mr. Drew’s information. A supervisor at the care home did not return messages. Ms. Gantz said Friday afternoon that the department’s press office had not been able to obtain detailed information about the incident because of early staff departures for the Labor Day weekend.
Mr. Sallmen arrived at the park in a passenger van with others from the personal care home, Mr. Drew said.
He did not know what time the group arrived, how many there were or the ratio of staff to residents.
A bystander called 911 around 1:30 p.m. after another witness found Mr. Sallmen floating in about 3 feet of water along Lakeview Beach on the lake’s north shore.
Mr. Drew said witnesses told rangers how Mr. Sallmen came to be face down in the water, but he declined to release details while the investigation continued.
Mr. Sallmen was not moving or conscious throughout the incident, Mr. Drew said.
He was unable to say how long Mr. Sallmen had been in the water before he was pulled out or whether the man knew how to swim.
The coroner’s office was not able to provide an exact time of death.
Mr. Drew said signs are posted warning that no lifeguard is on duty at Lake Arthur.
“There’s signage as you approach the swimming area and the picnic area on some of our buildings there, and right at the shoreline itself there’s a bulletin board with signage,” Mr. Drew said.
The 16,725-acre park hosts more than 1 million boaters, hikers, bikers and swimmers each year, according to its website.
Although one or more deaths a year are not uncommon somewhere in the park, Mr. Drew said a fatality in a swimming area was “unusual.”
Most deaths are connected with fishing and boating, he said.
Authorities are trying to identify Mr. Sallmen’s next of kin.
Anyone with information is asked to call the coroner’s office at 724-477-3137.
Jonathan D. Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962.
First Published August 29, 2014 7:35 AM