Beaver Lake Drowning Victims Identified

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BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) - The drowning victims at Beaver Lake on Sept. 1 have been identified as Sean Kelley, 21, and Wilson Laibwij, 17, officials said.

Both victims are from Springdale. Both bodies are at the Benton County Coroner's Office.

The bodies were recovered from two different drowning sites at Beaver Lake on Sept. 1, according to the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

The body of the first victim was that of Kelley, who was diving off a bluff at Hickory Creek Park into about 70-100 feet of water at about 5 p.m., officials said.

When he went under and did not resurface, his friends phoned 911 to report that he had drowned, according to officials. Dive teams were sent to the site near Martin's Bluff. The body was recovered before 8:30 p.m., authorities said.  (The photos accompanying this story are from the site of the Hickory Creek Park drowning.)

Authorities later Monday night began searching for a body at a second drowning site at Horseshoe Bend in Beaver Lake, which is north of where the first drowning happened, according to the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

In that incident, Laibwij was racing a friend in the swimming area about 7:45 p.m., when he went underwater, resurfaced, and then went under again, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Benton County Dive Team requested the help of the Carroll and Washington County dive teams to help at the Horseshoe Bend site Monday night. The teenager's body was located after 11 p.m., authorities said.

"It was pretty challenging," said Keshia Guyll, public information officer. "On both scenes we used sonar, which is helpful but when it comes down to it just putting divers in the water is probably going to be the best bet either way."

The last reported drowning at the Hickory Creek Park site was in July. On July 12, Elijah Watson, 19, of Bentonville drowned in the same area. Watson swam out about 100 yards without a life jacket and was on his way back to shore when he drowned.


  • Hondo

    Why does this lake seem to have more than it’s share of drownings? I for one will not go there for this reason. It just seems like you don’t hear of as many drownings as this lake. My prayers to the victims families.

    • Kris

      Accidents are potentially relative to popularity. This is a very popular lake, so there are more people there to have accidents, hence more accidents.

    • BevAnn

      I agree Hondo! I call this place – Death Lake, and I will NEVER go there!! It’s ridiculous how many deaths are there. We don’t hear about this many at Tenkiller, or Eufala, or Ouachita…

      • Hondo

        It just seems weird. I understand there are circumstances, but my goodness you see a lot of deaths there it seems like.

  • michaeldriskell1997

    This breaks my heart and scares the crap out of me. Not too long ago I took a bet from my friend to swim across for $200. And I did it. I’m so thankful to have not drowned. I’ll be praying for the families of those who drowned.

    Everyone just be careful out there, and if it seems sketchy, don’t do it!

  • Sunny Hollywood

    How many lives have to be lost before the idiots shut it down to swimming . its all about how much money it brings in , it is a shame that this is every single year that lives are taken from this lake . They need to do some thing other than just let it keep happening . I find it totally insane that a place doesn’t shut down after so many lives have been taken and nothing has been done ! all about the money it brings in , no i would not be swimming there at all .By no means support that area in any shape or form. camping boating or swimming NO just No way !

    • sjane

      Money isn’t collected at Martin’s Bluff. You can’t shut down a public area such as a creek, river, lake or oceanside beach. At best, posting signs stating Swim at your own risk, no Lifeguards.

  • sjane

    The lake is not to blame. It’s swimmers and boaters that take risks, don’t wear life jackets, and use alcohol to excess.
    Not to mention those new swimmers. We should give swim safety lessons in areas without lifeguards.

  • Wanda and Jimmie Anderson

    We own the land at Martin’s Bluff, Jimmie and Wanda Anderson. We believe our property line goes past the area that people access the lake. My brother has a metal dector and found the corp’s marker. When we met with them they stated that they felt the marker had been moved, even though the surverys marker was still on their marker. They said they would check with their superiors, and get back to us. The results was that we will have to have a new survery? I checked with a surveryor, who stated the corp has had two surveys one in the 60’s and one in the 80’s The two surverys are not the same? The whole comummity has tried for 15 years to get the corp to close this as a public access area. We have people parking on our property, using the bathroom next to our houses. I have even had strangers come into my home to use the bathroom, when I was outside. We continue to have deaths here because the lake is very deep and the bluffs are at all different levels, depending on the level of the lake water. It is not safe to party and swim at Martin’s Bluff. The area for parking is always over crowded and so the road is blocked by auto’s parked on the road. The whole community has tried for 15 years to close the parking area, that does not provide the space for the the size of the crowd that comes here. The county road where the parking is permitted is a closed area that once went along the bluff. During high water that part of the road is under water. The person who owned our property before us allowed the county road to cut through the corner of our land, so the neighbors could get in and out during high water. I do not understand why the property we have lost for the road change going through our land could not be exchanged for the closed road area that has been used for parking. The road area going through our land is much greater area used for parking. The neighborhood would like to setup a time to meet with any and all parties about Martin’s Bluff. Thanks

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