Neighbors near where boy died: ‘It’s a safe lake’

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CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Sunday death of a 7-year-old boy at Crockery Lake was the first serious incident the northeast Ottawa County lake has had in decades, officials say.

What began as a church outing ended in tragedy when 7-year-old Natanael Escobar of Grand Rapids went under in Crockery Lake and never resurfaced.

There are a number of signs to keep swimmers safe at the beach area at Grose Park in Chester Township, near Ravenna, including buoys that mark where you’re safe and where you could get into trouble. There hasn’t been a serious water rescue on Crockery Lake in over three decades, according to county parks and recreation officials.

“Very seldom do we have incidents like that,” longtime area resident Pat Wolters said Monday.

Wolters says the dangers are there — the water drops off quick beyond the buoys — but most people know about them. And if you miss the signs, there’s often a neighbor around to remind you.

“It’s a safe lake. And for the most part, if someone’s doing something wrong, we’ll just simply wave them in to shore and say, ‘Do you realize?'” Wolters said.

That wasn’t the case Sunday.

Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies say Natanael and his 11-year-old friend were attending an outing at Grose Park with other members of their Wyoming church, Iglesias Evangelica De Restauracion. The boys wanted to go the beach several yards from the picnic area.

“The two boys that had been involved in this asked their parents if they could go further down. (The) parents told them no,” Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Capt. John Wolffis said. “Boys being boys, they ended up drifting away from the group.”

They headed toward the beach and the cool lake waters, away from the watchful eyes of adults. Minutes later, the 11-year-old got into trouble just beyond the buoys. Natanael, 7, came to his rescue.

“The 11-year-old was able to make it back in (to shore). And that’s when the 7-year-old went under and never came back up,” Wolffis said.

Good Samaritans formed a human chain to look for the Natanael. Rescue crews arrive a short time later, but it was too late.

Natanael’s body was found in 12 feet of water, about 30 feet off shore.

24 Hour News 8 reached out to family members Monday, but they declined to speak, asking for privacy.

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