Police ID camper found dead in Oregon Ridge lake

COCKEYSVILLE, Md. - A 13-year-old boy on an outing with a Silver Spring camping group drowned this afternoon in the lake at Oregon Ridge, Baltimore County Fire Department officials confirmed.

Emergency crews responded to the county-owned and operated Oregon Ridge beach at 12:26 p.m. for a possible drowning. Witnesses said they saw the Dennis Kemp, 13, in distress and watched him go under the water in a roped area where swimming is permitted.

According to a Baltimore County news release, swimmers must pass a swim test in order to recreate in this deeper section of the lake. Kemp, as well as the rest of the swimmers in the group from the Silver Spring-based Camp Sonshine, had passed the test. A representative from Camp Sonshine issued the following statement Friday evening: 

The Wilderness Teen Program arrived at Oregon Ridge Park shortly before 12 p.m. After being swim tested by the lifeguard staff at the park, one of the groups of boys decided to swim out to the swim dock in the guarded swim area. While going out to the dock one of boys noticed his friend go under the water. Tragically he did not survive.

According to Officer Jeunette, “The boys and the lifeguard staff acted heroically and immediately; they did everything right,” but they were not able to save him. The crisis management team said everything possible was done.

We are deeply saddened by this situation and are going to do everything that we can to help the family and campers affected.

This is the first time that something like this has ever happened at Camp Sonshine in our 33 year history. Oregon Ridge Park told us that since they have been open for over 45 years, they have never had a drowning.
We send our prayers and thoughts to the family at this time. More than everything, we are a family here, and any loss felt by one of us is felt by all of us. Our priority is the care of the family and the campers that were on the field trip.

As more information is available we will communicate it. It is not appropriate to share any more details at this time.

Fire officials said several Oregon Ridge lifeguards were in the water searching for Kemp when emergency rescue crews arrived. Three lifeguards  had been stationed in their lifeguard chairs when Kemp went under water and almost immediately were joined by other lifeguards working at the park. They were not able to find him, and BCoFD water rescue experts took over the search.

Kemp's body was recovered at 3:08 p.m. in about 45 feet of water.

Members of Camp Sonshine told responders that today was Kemp's 13th birthday. Police have not yet released his identity.

Among those responding units included tactical rescuers from Texas Station #17, Kingsville VFC's water rescue unit, the Middle River Volunteer Ambulance Rescue Co.'s Dive Unit, Carroll County's Dive Unit and other local companies. Baltimore City responded with its sonar unit, but Kemp was recovered before the sonar unit arrived.

Immediately after the drowning, county officials announced that the Oregon Ridge beach and the pavilion on the beach will be closed until further notice. People who have rented pavilions on the beach will be notified individually.

The Oregon Ridge Nature Center will be closed for the weekend.

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