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Crews recover teen's body from Deer Creek reservoir

HEBER CITY — A 17-year-old high school football star tragically drown Wednesday while swimming during a family outing.

Kalem Franco, of Heber City, was attempting to swim the 100 yards between the shore and the island at Deer Creek Island Resort about 11 a.m. when officials say his body started cramping and he drown.

"He apparently cramped up and was screaming for help (and) went down," said Wasatch County Sheriff Todd Bonner.

Two of Franco's cousins were swimming nearby and attempted to save him, as did a passerby on a personal watercraft who threw the boy a life preserver, Bonner said.

"He couldn't get to the life preserver," he said.

Brent Layton, who works at the resort, said he heard someone was in trouble, so he took a personal watercraft to search the water before rescue crews arrived.

"I parked the machine, and I was just swimming and looking for him up and down, and I couldn't find him," Layton said.

Others circled the area, too, Layton said, but they couldn't find Franco either. Using an underwater camera, it took search-and-rescue teams 90 minutes to find the teen's body.

Franco was a popular student and star athlete at Wasatch High School, where he would have been a senior in the fall.

"(He was a) great kid," said Layton, also a Wasatch High student. "He's going to be missed."

Authorities say the late runoff makes the water unseasonably cold. And at 55 degrees, a swimmer could easily get a cramp.

"It will cause your body to start shutting down," Bonner said. "It's very cold water. Hypothermia sets in. It's very dangerous."

Bonner encouraged people recreating in water to wear life preservers, particularly with water temperatures being colder than normal.

"I understand, if you're swimming, a life preserver can probably get in the way a little bit," he said. "But it can also save a life."

The tragedy marks the ninth drowning in Utah since April 16:

• June 22 — A 2-year-old boy fell into the Virgin River while on a camping trip. He was pulled off life support about a week later.

• June 11 — Uri Gois, 15, drowned in the Virgin River.

• June 8 — Jayson Robert Corporon, 8, drowned in the American Fork River.

• June 7 — Donaven Lopez, 2, died a day after he climbed through a hole in a Riverton fence and fell into a canal.

• June 4 — Nathan Daniel Ellison, 13, died several days after being pulled from the Provo River. He had been floating down the river on an inflatable mattress.

• June 1 — Shirley Palmer, 73, died while kayaking on the Green River.

• May 29 — Vincent Larsen, 2, of Woodland Hills, died after he fell into Starvation Creek near his home.

• April 16 — Richard J. Valenzuela, 4, of Santaquin, died after being found floating face down in Utah Lake. He had been fishing with his family the day before.

In addition, there have been several near drownings in just the past week in Utah. On June 25, Carson Jones, 9, nearly drowned in Grantsville Reservoir. On June 22, a 3-year-old boy nearly drowned while swimming in the pool at the Iron Blossom Lodge at Snowbird. On June 20, Cody Grundstrom, 6, nearly drowned while swimming in Capitol Reef National Park.

Also, Cami Oborn, 34, of Riverton, died in a rafting accident June 27 on the Boise River in southwestern Idaho.

Contributing: Jared Page

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam