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Published: Saturday, 5/19/2001

Man drowns trying to boot table over dam, sheriff says


INDEPENDENCE - A teenager who drowned in the Maumee River was attempting to kick a state park picnic table over Independence Dam when he fell into the churning water, the Defiance County sheriff said yesterday.

Carl Stahl, 18, of Defiance, drowned directly beneath the dam, where water was rapid and much higher than normal.

Two companions, Brad Braley, 17, and Christopher Cline, 20, both of Defiance, were unable to reach Mr. Stahl as he bobbed to the surface several times. Officials have not yet recovered the body.

Sheriff David Westrick said the three young men had broken a chain on a picnic table at the state park and carried the table to the highest platform overlooking the dam.

“They threw it in the water, but it didn't go over the dam,” he said.

The table lodged against the dam and young Stahl climbed over a railing and tried to kick the table loose. “He lost his footing and fell into the water . . . and he went over the dam,” the sheriff said.

The young men previously had stated that Mr. Stahl ventured out onto a ledge and lost his footing.

Sheriff Westrick said that Mr. Cline and young Braley provided that information when interviewed the day after the incident. A juvenile girl who was with the men confirmed that story.

The three men and the girl stopped at the dam at 3 a.m. on their way out after visiting the campground.

Officials have said the young men drank beer around a campfire before leaving the campground.

“All those kids have now been honest about it and told us what really happened,” the sheriff said.

The investigation has been turned over to Independence State Park rangers, who may consider possible charges, Sheriff Westrick said.

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