New Castle News

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June 11, 2014

Cold water blamed in man’s drowning

NEW CASTLE — A Youngstown man swimming with friends drowned Monday after plunging into cold water.

The body of Aaron Mahdee, 20, of Youngstown was recovered about 9:30 p.m. from about 32 feet of water in a private quarry known locally as “The Bahamas,” according to David Rishel, a diver.

Lawrence County Deputy Coroner Richard Johnson pronounced him dead at 10:15 p.m. The cause was accidental drowning, Johnson said. First responders were notified about 8 p.m.

Rishel said Mahoning Township fire and police departments helped transport divers from the Lawrence County and New Castle dive teams to the scene, located off Eric Drive near Hillsville. The site is about a mile from the nearest access road. Rishel said boats and ATVs were used to get to the quarry.

Rishel was one of five divers who entered the water.

“He was swimming with two other guys,” Rishel said of the victim. The companions, he noted, had identified the spot where Mahdee had gone down.

“He was found about eight feet from the spot they saw him last,” Rishel said. “We found him on the first pass. The guys gave us an excellent spot.”

The young men told him they had gone swimming in that location before without problem, Rishel said, adding he believes the still-cold water contributed to Mahdee’s death.

The site is attractive, Rishel explained, because swimmers jump from the 20- to 25-feet-high cliff walls that tower over the water.

“They said he jumped into the water, came up, then went down immediately,” Rishel recounted.

Water temperature in that area was about 63 degrees at the surface but 42 degrees where Mahdee ended up in his dive, Rishel said.

“His body just couldn’t react quickly enough to that sudden a change in temperature,” Rishel said. “That’s what got him.”

Rishel said the others had told him Mahdee was a strong man and able swimmer, “but the shock due to the cold just shut him down.”

No alcohol was involved, Rishel said, noting the three young men had just gone to the quarry for a swim. He noted Mahdee’s dive from the cliff was his first plunge into the water. “Had he been wet, the shock might not have been as great.”

According to the American Red Cross website, exposure to cold water could lead to hypothermia, a life-threatening condition when cold or cool temperatures cause the body to lose heat faster than it can produce it.

When a person falls into cold water:

•Temperature of the skin and of the blood in the arms and legs drops quickly.

•This could affect a person’s ability to breathe and he or she may be unable to use the arms and legs.

•The temperature of the heart, brain and other vital organs gradually drops.

•Shivering begins.

•The victim may become unable to think clearly.

•The victim may become unconscious. If the temperature drops more, death from heart failure is possible, but drowning may occur first.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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