Two toddlers, a brother and sister, were pulled from an irrigation canal where they drowned Saturday afternoon after slipping through a broken fence behind their apartment complex.
The deaths are the third and fourth drownings to occur in the same irrigation ditch in 10 years, all of them taking the lives of children living at the same complex,said Sandy Police Capt. Jack Butterfield.The bodies of Terry Lynn Southam, nearly 3, and her brother, Gary Lee, who would have turned 2 on Sunday, were found by Salt Lake County Search and Rescue Team members in a canal at 8600 S. 250 East, Sandy Police Officer K.M. Pepper said.
Meanwhile, Wasatch County officials found the body of a Salt Lake man who drowned in Deer Creek Reservoir Saturday and another search, for two people possibly missing on Utah Lake, was interrupted by nightfall.
Wasatch County Sheriff's Office dispatcher Brad Simmons said the body of a 34-year-old man he did not identify was found by Wasatch County Search and Rescue Team members and searchers from the Utah State Parks and Recreation Division in Deer Creek about 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The search for two people on Utah Lake was to resume Sunday morning.
A Utah County sheriff's dispatcher said late Saturday that a fisherman observed four juveniles and a man having difficulty in the lake water because of high winds and waves.
The people had been fishing and waded into the water, where they were playing or swimming. When the fisherman noticed the group was having difficulty, he assisted three of them, two males and a female, to shore.
But when the fisherman turned around to look for the other two individuals, they had disappeared. The fisherman subsequently drove into Payson with the three he had assisted and called for backup, the dispatcher said.
In the Sandy search, the 3-year-old girl was found about 4:35 p.m. and flown by helicopter to Primary Children's Medical Center, where medical personnel continued efforts to revive her. However, the child was pronounced dead at 5:40 p.m., hospital spokeswoman Lynette Butler said.
Rescuers donned wet suits and used search dogs to continue their hunt for the boy until he was found about 9 p.m. by searchers in a rubber raft nearly a mile downstream at 78 S. 450 East, Pepper said.
The boy, who like his sister was found submerged in the canal, was pronounced dead at the scene, an Alta View Hospital spokeswoman said.
The children were reported missing about 3 p.m. when their mother realized she could no longer hear them playing outside, neighbors said. The toddlers were out of their parents' sight for only minutes, Butterfield said.
Their mother and father and several neighbors began searching the area near Ashley Diane Apartments, 8680 S. 220 East, until Salt Lake County and Sandy officials joined in the effort, neighbors said.
The father found a pair of shoes belonging to one of his children on the canal bank, leading Salt Lake County and Sandy officials to concentrate their search efforts on the small stream, about 6 feet wide and 4 to 5 feet deep, Pepper said.
The children apparently climbed between two broken slats in the fence that should have prevented access to the canal, Pepper said. The irrigation ditch is owned by Jordan Irrigation Co.
Neighbors complained of constant problems with the wooden fence that lines the canal, saying it is in disrepair. "I've been here for a year and a half, and it's always been this way," said Tracy Clark, a neighbor.
"We kept saying that someone was going to fall in and get killed," said Nickie Banyai, another neighbor.
The owner of the management company that operates the apartment complex said a constant effort is made to maintain the fence. She was made aware of the broken fence the children climbed through from news reports Saturday evening.
A chain-link fence would curtail future tragedies, Sharlene Rubie, owner of Rubie Management said, "but the city has got to cooperate." The Sandy City attorney said there have been two recent Utah court cases involving child drownings in irrigation ditches, both of which resulted in rulings in favor of irrigation companies.
"But the courts are struggling to find some way to find responsible parties to ensure this doesn't happen again," said Walter Miller.
Nine years ago a 2-year-old child who lived with his parents at Ashley Diane Apartments drowned in the irrigation ditch. In 1984, another child under the age of 5 drowned in the same canal, Butterfield said.