Teen loses his life in Rend Lake
By: Arnold Wyrick
FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. - It's a heartbreaking end to the Mother's Day for one southern Illinois family. The tragic weekend came when the Merritt family received a phone call from police telling them their 17-year-old son Justin Merritt died while swimming in Rend Lake.
"The Franklin County Sheriff's Department received a 911 call around 4 o'clock Sunday afternoon, stating that there was a young adult male in the beach area struggling in the water," says Mark Roderick with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Police believe Justin wasn't alone in the water when he started going under at South Sandusky Beach. He'd been swimming out in the marked off area with one of his friends. He got in trouble and went under the water," Roderick said.
Sesser Fire Department was called in, along with Franklin County Ambulance and the Rend Lake Search and Rescue Team after Merritt's friends were unable to find him in the lake. "The friend that was with him and another individual entered the water and they attempted to rescue the young man. But they were not successful," Roderick said.
Around 7:30 Sunday evening search crews found Justin's body in about 8 feet of water near the outer edge of the swimming area. Justin Merritt's visitation will be Wednesday at Johnson-Hughes Funeral Home in Herrin, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Then his funeral service will be on Thursday at 11:00 a.m.
An investigation is underway to determine exactly what happened at the lake, and what caused Justin's death. At this time police do not believe alcohol or foul play are suspected.