Public chimes in on Wildcat Lake drowning

It only takes three to five minutes for a person to die by drowning, according to Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue Chief Ken Burdette.

Firefighters were on scene at Wildcat Lake July 30 in just over eight minutes.

“There’s a very short window of time for someone to survive a drowning,” he said.

CKFR, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and American Red Cross officials met with community members Thursday night to discuss the death of Trenten Morris, 13, of Port Orchard, who drowned in the Central Kitsap lake, just a day shy of his 14th birthday.

“This is a tragedy,” Burdette said. “It’s a tragedy for everyone who was at the lake that day. No one wants this to happen again.”

Burdette said CKFR has taken a lot of heat about the incident because fire crews did not immediately dive into the water to find Trenten.

Burdette said Trenten was already dead when fire crews arrived at Wildcat Lake, so they waited for certified divers to arrive and recover the teen’s body.

“We risk a life to save a savable life. We don’t take any risks to save a life or a property that is already lost,” he said. “Unfortunately, this was a case that by the time they arrived, Trenten was dead. It was too late to save Trenten’s life.”

Scott Morris, Trenten’s father, said the family has no ill feelings toward the fire department and other emergency responders on scene that day. He told the crowd gathered at the meeting the emergency responders did everything they could and it was just a tragic accident.

“We don’t blame anybody here. They did the best job they could,” Scott said. “No one did anything wrong here. It happened and we’re going to grow from it.”

He went on to say the people at the lake July 30 actually helped the family a great deal.

“Among all the chaos, there was a presence of calmness there,” Scott said. “We can’t thank you enough. We really can’t thank you guys enough.”

Several community members asked why Wildcat Lake does not have lifeguards, but Burdette said most of Wildcat Lake, including the area where Trenten died, is private property and a lifeguard may not have been able to save the teen’s life.

“Finding a lifeguard at the park may or may not make a difference,” Burdette said.

Jeff Elevado, of the American Red Cross, said even children who are good swimmers should be cautious in the water. Fatal drownings are the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1-14, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a competitive swimmer. You’re never always safe,” Elevado said.

At the meeting, people stressed the importance of supporting public pools and swimming programs so children can learn to swim and be safe in water.

“Trenten did have swimming lessons through the YMCA. He was a good swimmer,” Scott said. “It just — it was a panic.”

Scott said his family is learning and growing from Trenten’s death and he hopes other people will learn something as well.

“He was a great kid and if even one life is saved from this tragedy, that’s great,” he said.