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Cheat Lake drowning victim identified

MORGANTOWN — The person who drowned Tuesday in Cheat Lake has been identified as Zion Rogers, 20, of Monmouth Junction, N.J., by the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies were called to the Backwaters, off of Morgan Run, in Cheat Lake, for a drowning at 7:42 p.m., according to a press release. 

The victim hadn’t been seen for three minutes when friends called 911, according to radio traffic Tuesday evening.

Multiple witnesses said the victim was trying to swim to a concrete pier when he began struggling to stay afloat, the department said. People tried to aid the victim but were not successful.

The Morgantown dive team and Marion County dive team recovered the victim’s body at 9:10 p.m.

Lt. Douglas Sharpe, of the Morgantown Fire Department, who leads the dive team, which is made up of members from the MFD and Morgantown Police Department, said the majority of divers were on duty that day and those who weren’t went directly to the site once they got the call.

Swimming in open water is dangerous because the water is usually deeper than what you expect and the object you’re swimming to is normally farther than you expect, Sharpe said. Open water removes points of reference, making it hard to estimate distances.

The dive team was told Rogers was 30-40 feet off shore. Sharpe said they were able to locate Rogers about 10 minutes after they entered the water because they had a good “last seen” point. Rogers was found about 10-15 feet away from that point, which was roughly 100 feet from the shore.

Sharpe said they knew the distance from shore because their communication rope — which allows a backup diver, known as the “on comms,” to talk with the divers under water — is 200 feet and about half of it was out when Rogers was recovered.

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