The family wants change, make a statement

CONNEAUT, Ohio (WJW) – A large-scale search of Lake Erie near Conneaut Township Park turned up no trace of the body of an 11-year-old suburban Akron boy who was swept away by rip currents on Friday.

During Monday evening’s Conneaut City Council meeting, members heard a number of suggestions on how to improve the safety of people visiting the lake.

It should be emphasized that Township Park is managed by the park board, but Conneaut City Council members say they are interested in any proposals that will prevent future tragedies and protect all visitors to the lakefront.

“We want the community to come forward and tell us what they would like to see. We want to be their voice and we want to be open to their concerns,” said Conneaut Council President Terry Moisio.

During the council meeting, a statement was read on behalf of the grieving family of the 11-year-old victim, known by her first name “Hunter.”

A fifth-grade student from Springfield Township was swept away by the tide while he, his mother and a friend were visiting a park Friday afternoon.

The family’s statement reads in part: “Words cannot express it. He was a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin and just a caring and loving child.”

The National Weather Service issued a rip current warning Friday morning due to high winds and wave action. The statement says Hunter’s family was unaware of the NWS warning to stay out of the water.

According to the statement, “we propose that there is a need for more lifesaving devices, tide awareness, and knowledge of the tides for those unfamiliar with the strength of these waters. We do not want more victims to die in these tragic waters. Hunter will be forever loved and missed.”

Others visiting Conneaut Township Park Friday included a young Scoutmaster from Ashtabula County who silently watched the tragedy unfold.

John Repasky, 15, is currently leading a campaign to improve safety at the lakeside park.

“It happens at least once a year and I think many of us would agree that it needs to stop,” the teenager told the council on Monday.

Young Repasky says he and other members of his Boy Scout troop are involved in fundraising to purchase flags and warning signs that can be hung in Township Park to warn visitors about dangerous conditions, such as rip currents.

“Honestly, I was a little disappointed with what I saw, the lack of warnings and all that was there were no liability signs that said ‘swim at your own risk, no lifeguards,’” he told the council.

While the park board ultimately determines policies and procedures for Conneaut Township Park, the Conneaut Town Council president says he supports Repasky’s proposal in the interest of protecting all people who visit the lake.

“You know you might not get a rip current warning in one application and you might in another, so I like the idea of ​​having some kind of warning system, a flag system,” Moisio said.

Repasky received a round of applause when he told the council, “If this saves at least one person a year, if at least one year doesn’t drown, it will be a huge success for this community.”