Benton County Dive Team members recovered the body of a Bentonville man from Beaver Lake on Saturday (July 12), according to authorities.
Elijah Watson, 19, went swimming a little after 8:30 p.m. in the area of Martin’s Bluff across the cove from Hickory Creek Park in Lowell, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to several calls of a disturbance between a man and woman but soon realized it was a drowning, said Keshia Guyll, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
Alan Bland of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the victim, his girlfriend and her cousin went for a late-night swim.
“They went about one hundred yards and weren’t wearing life jackets,” Bland said. “He started having trouble, and they began to swim back.”
When they were about halfway across to the swim beach, they started to turn back towards the bluffs and that’s when Watson panicked, Bland said.
“She was telling him to grab her arm, but he started to panic and calls came in of an attack,” Bland said. “But she was just trying to save him.”
The park ranger said Watson appeared to be in good shape, and wasn’t sure what caused him to tire.
“We don’t know if he got a cramp or if he just got out there and realized it was a lot farther than what he thought,” Bland said.
The victim lived in Bentonville and according his Facebook page was a recent graduate of Bentonville High School. His family arrived at the site when authorities were pulling his body to shore at 11:45 p.m., officials said.
“It’s very traumatic for the girlfriend because he drowned right in front of her,” Bland said. “It’s such a waste of life. A 19-year-old man wasn’t wearing a life jacket. A life jacket means what it says. It’s meant to save your life.”
Locals that were swimming at Hickory Creek Park Sunday said they had heard of the drowning the night before. William Travis said he had just made that same swim from the beach to the bluffs Sunday afternoon.
“When I got over there a lady came over and started telling me how a 19-year-old boy drowned over there with a couple of his friends,” Travis said, “And how they came running out when they heard screaming and tried to help them but it was too late by the time they got down here.”
A toxicology screening has yet to be done, but authorities said they don’t suspect drugs or alcohol were involved in the drowning.