It seems a tragic string of events led to the death of five youth and the serious injury of another who had been playing in the Meramec River at Castlewood State Park in south St. Louis County. Sergeant Ralph Bledsoe with the State Water Patrol says two eyewitnesses have told the patrol that about a dozen youth were wading and swimming in the river last night as part of a church gathering. A couple waded out to the center of the river, into a stronger current. They lost their footing and were taken into a deeper part of the river by the current. They screamed for help and four companions responded. When they attempted to rescue them, they were caught in the same current and also swept away. Five youth died. One is hospitalized at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center. Bledsoe says the Water Patrol search and rescue team responded at around seven o’clock Sunday evening. Three youth were pulled from the river at first, two still alive. Both were taken to the hospital, but one died. Divers continued to look for other bodies throughout the night and pulled the last victim’s body from the river at six o’clock Monday morning. Those killed in the tragedy were 10-year-old Bryant Barnes, 13-year-old Dana Johnson, 14-year-old Ryan Mason and 17-year-old Damon Johnson, who were all related. 16-year-old Deandra Sherman also was drowned in the river. All were from St. Louis.
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