Broughton High School Boys Drowned while on a picnic 1932



Broughton High School Boys Drowned while on a picnic

Claudius Wilson dies in an attempt to save the life of Doyle Fitch, a schoolmate, at Sandy Run Lake. Bodies recovered hours later.

Eldorado Daily News, May 28, 1932

The heroic attempt of a high school freshman to save the life of his drowning schoolmate cost the lives of both of them Friday afternoon, May 28, at 2:15. When the waters of Sandy Run Lake near Norris City closed above them and defied all efforts of rescue.

The two youths, Claudius Wilson, 16, and Doyle Fitch, 17, both students of the Broughton High School, were members of a party of thirty five students enjoying a picnic in celebration of the close of the school year which ended Tuesday of this week. The party was chaperoned by scott York, school Principal, and Charles Rushing and Miss Linna Hamilton, high school teachers.

Shortly before 2 o'clock Fitch and Wilson and Maud Searles, a schoolmate, set out in a boat. They were attired in bath suits and as the boat was rowed out into water about 150 yards from the bank, Fitch slippled from the boat into the water and clung to the end of the craft. According to the Searles girl, who remained in the boat and witnessed the enactment of the tragedy only a few yards from her, Fitch said "I might as well learn to swim one time as another" and suddenly loosed his hold on the boat which drifted away from him as he floundered helplessly in the water.

In response to the cries from his panic striken companion, young Wilson, as excellent swimmer, dived from the boat to rescue him. All caution thrown to the wind in his terror locked him tightly in a strangle hold around his neck. Unable to free himself from the grip, Wilson was helpless and as his cries for help reached others of the party who were swimming about 75 yards away, the two sank for the last time in water about sixteen feet deep.

A score or more of men and boys made a break neck dash to assist the boys berfore they went down but were still twenty five yards from them when they disappeared.

A fleet of boats commandeered by Cottagers and fisherman began a systematic search for the bodies and dragged the muddy bottom of the artificial lake made by damming up an old creek bed. It was the opinion of searchers that both bodies had drifted into the under brush in the old canal of the creek and there lodged.

Mrs. Alpha Carlisle, who lives on the shore of the lake was standing in the yard of her home when the boys went down the last time. In an effort to mark the spot she established an imaginary line between a post in her yard and a pier on the opposite side of the lake. From these calculations she directed the rescue work. As boats swarmed over the spot, barbed poles and drag hooks probed along the lake bottom.

The parents of the boys, Mr. & Mrs. Otto Wilson and Mr. & Mrs. Chester Fitch had been summoned from their farm homes near Broughton and stood helpless on the bank and watched every attempt at rescue fail. Hours after the tragedy, searchers continued the search in the vain hope that a pulmeter or artificial resperation could be employed in an effort to restore breathing. About 150 spectators crowded the banks of the lake all afternoon and the search continued and newcomers augmented their number as the midnight hour saw the attempt to recover the bodies continued unrelentingly. Two professional divers from Mt. Carmel were engaged and arrived at the scene about 11:15 p.m. After assembling their apparatus one went down at midnight & combed the depths of the lake for 2 hours, coming again to the surface he was replaced by his companion who also failed to locate the bodies.

Doyle was the second member of the Fitch family to die by drowning. A brother Harry was drowned in a well at his home in Indiana at the age of 6. He is survived by his parents and an 18 year old invalid brother. Young Wilson is survived by his parents and three sisters.

The 24 hour search for the bodies ended at 10 a.m. Saturday morning when a four foot iron drag equipped with giant size fish hooks caught the body of the Fitch boy. As Sherman Porter of Broughton, the man who recovered the bodies, raised his drag to the top of the water, Wilson's body remained tight in the strangle hold held by the Fitch boy who had clasped him around the neck from the rear. However before they could grasp him, the Wilson boy floated free and sank again to the bottom. A 20 minute search was required before it would again be recovered.

The place from which the bodies were taken was the exact spot Mrs. Carlisle had direcetd the rescuers to.

(Contributed by Silvetta Parsons & transcribed by James Gholson)