FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – It was supposed to be a harmless joke, instead, it left a teenager stranded on an island, yelling for help.
The incident happened at a private residential lake on the city's Southwest side. The teenager is safe, but it left some residents in the area concerned and a bit upset.
Indiana’s NewsCenter went to the neighborhood. Both residents and Fort Wayne Police (FWPD) say the incident turned out to be a prank by some teenagers--two girls and a boy.
The teens took a canoe to an island in the middle of the lake where, residents say, the teen girls thought it would be funny to leave the teenage boy. Bill Betley lives on the lake he says he heard the boy yelling for help and called 911.
Just before 3:00 Monday afternoon, FWPD responded to a call on the 5800 block of Sandra Lee Avenue to an "unknown problem...near the water." The incident became so serious Betley says the Fort Wayne Fire Department, a water rescue team and the Allen County Sheriff's department were called for assistance.
A search was conducted until authorities found out the boy had been rescued by Dave Loubier and his paddle boat. Loubier says the boy looked to be 14-years-old, and wasn’t wearing a life vest.
Although Loubier rescued the boy, he does not consider himself a hero. Instead he heeded this warning: “Young people who don’t know anything about this lake or about boat safety shouldn’t be out on a private lake without lake ownership supervision.”
Betley agrees, saying water safety is no laughing matter. “I think it was crazy for them to do that,” said Betley. “That could've been a very serious situation because we've had four drownings out here, and that's not a good way of doing anything, especially on the water. You just don't do that on water.”
Residents like, Betley and Loubier, who live on the private lake are part of an association. INC also spoke to the lake property manger who asked to remain anonymous. He says there are rules that only those who live along the lake are allowed to use it. He says if something serious had happened to the teens, the lake property owners would be held liable, and there’s one in particular who he says is a repeat offender. He says one of the lake front owners violates the association by-laws by continuing to allow people onto his property and granting permission to use his boats—even when he’s not home.
“People that give permission, even if they’re a land owner, should be held liable for any incidents,” said the property manager. “All the people who know they’re not supposed to use [the lake] and do, are the offenders.” The property manager says the teenagers were using “the offender’s” canoe when the incident occurred.
It is not known whether the teens were given permission to be on the lake. However, FWPD spokesperson, Officer Chris Felton, says if the teens did not have permission, they could face possible trespass issues. He advises people who don’t want intruders on their property to post “No Trespassing” signs and contact police when unauthorized persons are found.
Betley says the incident was a waste of time for emergency responders. “As far as the prank, Felton says unfortunately there are situations where they end up responding to illegitimate incidents. Sometimes that can create a situation where officers aren't able to respond to someone who really needs help.
Betley, Loubier, and the property manager say there have been several drownings at the private lake in the past, the latest being in 2001. The property manager says the drownings were people who either did not live in the neighborhood or were not authorized to be in the lake. He says although Monday’s incident turned out to be very small, the ramifications for residents could be great.
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