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Fifth drowning in three weeks in Meramec River

Fifth drowning in three weeks in Meramec River

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SULLIVAN • An Overland man is the fifth man to drown in the Meramec River in three weeks.

Nicholas N. Spangler, 25, drowned about 6 p.m. Friday while rope swinging on the Meramec at the Arapaho Campground in Sullivan, in Franklin County about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Authorities said that Spangler had a history of seizures that may have caused the accident.

Larry Flescher, deputy chief of the Sullivan Fire Protection District, said a witness described Spangler as stiffening up before he fell from the rope.

Spangler knew how to swim, Flescher said, but witnesses said he submerged almost immediately. The water was about 8 to 10 feet deep where he fell, about 8 feet from the bank.

Two off-duty firefighters who were at the campground pulled him from the water and tried to revive him with CPR.

Flescher said Spangler was still unconscious when he arrived and that they continued CPR on the way to Missouri Baptist Medical Center, where Spangler died about an hour later.

It makes the fifth drowning on the Meramec in three weeks. The river is known for posing hidden dangers because of its often strong undertow and uneven terrain.

Salvatore Jasso, 20, and Luis Baez Gonzales, 18, both of St. Louis, drowned Tuesday while wading in the Meramec at Castlewood State Park.

After that incident, Vincent Loyal, chief of the Metro West Fire Protection District, called the river "an extremely attractive hazard" because of its deceptive appearance.

"The water appears very serene. But once folks get in there and get into some trouble, it can have some bad consequences," he said.

On July 23, Michael A. Collins, 56, of High Ridge, drowned near George Winter Park while trying to retrieve his boat, which had floated about 10 feet from shore.

On July 10, Sayed-Abdali Hafiz, 45, of St. Louis, drowned while walking in the shallow water near Meramec Caverns. Officials said he was pulled into deeper water by the strong current and did not know how to swim.

There have been at least two dozen drownings on Missouri's waterways this year. Last year, there were 50 drownings — more than usual, according to the Missouri Water Patrol. In 2009, there were 27 drownings.

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