Joshua Antonio Hipolito, 16, hadn’t been at the Laurel Lake Spillway long Monday afternoon when he and some friends decided to jump off some rocks near the beach like numerous others have done.
Unfortunately for Hipolito, he apparently tired out before being able to swim back to shore, and drown.
“My heart goes out to the family. It is just a sad day for the family and the community both,” said Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell.
Hipolito attended McCreary County High School.
Day at the lake
Xavier Kramar, 17, said he, Hipolito and some other friends went to the lake just to hang out and swim.
They hadn’t even been at the lake for 10 minutes when they jumped off the rocks like they had done numerous times before.
Kyle Trammell, 19, said he jumped off the rocks right in front of Hipolito.
“He tried to fall in behind me, got tired and couldn’t hold himself up any more. By the time we got to him, he was already sinking,” Trammell said.
Kramar said he thinks Hipolito got caught in the current and back splash of an eddy from a boat.
“I guess he couldn’t go anywhere and tired himself out staying a float,” Kramar said. “He started screaming for help. I was on the other side of the lake. By the time I got to him he had just sunk down. I dived down trying to see if I could get him. He was just too far deep.”
Harrell said his department and several others were notified about 4:15 p.m. concerning the drowning.
About three-dozen first responders from Whitley and Laurel counties responded to the lake where divers from Woodbine Fire and Rescue and the London-Laurel Rescue Squad recovered Hipolito’s body about 6:35 p.m.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Officer Rich Waite said the area where the victim was recovered was about 25 feet deep.
Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley said that case is being investigated as a drowning.
“It is apparent that it is a drowning. We have no beliefs to think otherwise of any type of foul play. It is being investigated as an accidental drowning,” Croley said.
No life jackets were in use Monday.
Trammell said Hipolito was full of life and always goofy in school doing dumb stuff that people dared him to do.
“You told him to do something and he would do it no matter if it was dumb or not. He didn’t care about the consequences,” Trammell noted.
Kramar said Hipolito was a great guy.
“Everybody liked him. I don’t know why he did the stuff that he did, but he was a liked person by many people,” Kramar said.
Water safety advice
Harrell said he would prefer people not jump off the cliffs overlooking the lake.
“If you are going to do it, make sure you are still as strong a swimmer as you were last September when you quit swimming. This young man might have been a strong swimmer, but you are in no way equal to what you were last year when you quit. Take that into consideration,” Harrell noted about swimming this time of year.
Croley said that if people are going to jump in the lake from the rocks, then he would encourage them to jump feet first.
Whitley County Emergency Director Danny Moses said the advice he would give to people is wear a life jacket if you are in water over your head.
“It may not look cool, but it could save your life,” Moses noted.
“Just always wear a life jacket if you are in the water,” Waite added.
Waite and Croley are investigating the case.
Other agencies or officials assisting at the scene, included: Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department, London Fire Department, Laurel County Emergency Management Director Abby Hale, and Whitley County EMS.