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Monday’s tragedy “confirms what we are finding _ this continuing cycle of people not knowing how to swim and their children not knowing how to swim and still being around water,” said Sue Anderson, USA Swimming’s Director of Programs and Services.

Parental fear and lack of parental encouragement were the top two reasons children and parents gave for not swimming, Anderson said, adding that fear trumped any financial limitations in the study.

“Adults seem to pass their fear of water onto their children,” she said. “There seems to be a culture that says, ‘Its a scary environment don’t go there.’”

Marilyn Robinson, a friend of the families, was among the adults who watched helplessly as the victims went under.

“None of us could swim,” Robinson told The Shreveport Times. “They were yelling ‘Help me, help me! Somebody please help me!’ It was nothing I could do but watch them drown one by one.”

Taiwon Simpson, a friend of the victims, also could do nothing.

“The wave pushed them back that way. They hollered for help and they started going down,” he told AP Television News.

About 30 feet away, 22-year-old Christopher Patlan was hanging out with his friends when he heard screams and ran toward the river. By then, all the teens were struggling, he said. He jumped in and ended up closest to DeKendrix.

“Everything happened so fast. It was like a wreck,” said Patlan, who is white and Hispanic and took swimming lessons as a youngster. By the time he dragged DeKendrix to safety, the rest of the teens had vanished.

DeKendrix pleaded with Patlan “to go help my cousin,” as he was being saved, but it was too late.

Korey Prest said he tried in vain to save another victim. “He slipped out of my hands. I couldn’t feel him no more,” he said.

After a more than two-hour search, divers discovered the teens’ bodies at nightfall, in a muddy 30-foot-deep section of the river about 20 feet from where they disappeared. The murky water hindered the divers, who sectioned off sections of the river as they meticulously searched the bottom.

At their Shreveport neighborhood on Tuesday, family and friends gathered to offer condolences, hugging one another and holding an impromptu prayer vigil.

“These are some of the greatest kids in the world,” said the Rev. Emmitt Welch, who knew all the victims in his work as a Baptist youth minister. “I mean when you think about the ideal children, these kids are wonderful.”

Nearby, DeKendrix leaned against a pole, the lone survivor plucking nervously at his purple T-shirt, and sighed.

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