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Closure and comfort after tragic drowning

tragic drowning, Christian Aid Ministries

This summer the Ohio Search & Rescue team responded to the tragic drowning of Keith Schlabach, local to CAM’s headquarters in Berlin.

On June 4, Keith and his friend Maynard set out with a canoe on the Tuscarawas River as the sun rose above the fog. The friends weren’t catching fish as they had hoped so they decided to stop at an island in the river. As they approached the island and attempted to maneuver around a sapling, the current grabbed the canoe and flipped it upside down. Keith and Maynard landed in water that reached their shoulders. They pushed the canoe to shallower water, but all the items in the boat started floating downstream.

Keith swam after his backpack while Maynard wrestled the upside-down canoe against the current.Maynard finally managed to reach the island to dump the water out of the canoe. But he could no longer see Keith, who had only been 150 feet downstream the last Maynard had seen him. Since the canoe paddles were gone, Maynard used a stick to guide himself downstream. But there was still no sight of Keith.

An empty feeling gnawed at Maynard’s stomach as he kept rowing. When he reached the items Keith had swam for, the dreaded reality of not finding Keith began to sink in. The following days were long ones for family and friends as they waited for Keith’s body to be recovered from the murky waters. Search & Rescue team members worked with other agencies to begin the search. As time passed, our team continued the efforts alone.

One of our team members was related to Keith, and many other relatives and friends longed to help. Because of the personal nature of the incident, our team members allowed Keith’s loved ones to be involved by arranging to have them stay on a bridge downstream from the accident in case Keith’s body surfaced nearby.

tragic drowning, Christian Aid Ministries

On the morning of June 7, our team launched the boat to perform another day of searching when they spotted Keith’s body along the riverbank. It was a bittersweet moment for loved ones. Later, our team members gathered with his family and friends for a touching time of sharing and prayer.

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