Boy Scout leader drowns trying to save struggling troop member

SALEM, Utah (KSTU) – A Boy Scout leader’s wife reflects on her husband’s death after police say he drowned shortly after coming to the aid of a struggling troop member.

Salem Pond is a summertime hot spot drawing in families, fishermen and even Boy Scouts.

“It’s a beach area, has a lot of picnic tables, a lot of people that swim there,” said Salem Chief of Police, Brad James.

For 22-year-old troop leader, Wesley Kratzer, nature was somewhat of a personal calling.

“He loves being in nature, he loves doing things with his hands. He loved everything about nature and outside,” said his 20-year-old wife Diana.

Boy Scouts was his church calling. “He was the scout leader and I was the assistant,” said Diana.

On Wednesday, Wesley, his wife, two other troop leaders and a group of ten to 12-year-old scouts went out to Salem Pond to practice swimming techniques for rank advancement in the scouting program.

“This is just a nice quiet [pond], no currents, no real mobility as far as waves or anything like that,” said James describing the waters at Salem Pond.

When an 11-year-old scout started to struggle, Wesley was quick to help.

“He always put like everyone else, and me first, before himself,” said Diana, “He was really peaceful, really calm, whenever something went wrong.”

The scout made it back to shore. “Another leader pulled him out,” said James.

Wesley didn’t. “When they got to shore and looked back the initial leader (Wesley) was missing,” said Chief James.

“I thought he went to a restroom or something,” said Diana.

A few minutes went by, Wesley was still nowhere to be seen.

“Later they (other troop leaders) call 911, the cops came, the ambulance… that is when I realized that something else happened,” Diana said.

"There was people searching in the water when we got there."

Emergency crews started a grid search and called in the divers, but cloudy waters hindered their search.

“The water’s very murky, you can’t see, the divers were just doing it by hand, just by feel,” said Chief James.

50 minutes later, they found him.

“He wasn’t breathing, no heartbeat,” said Chief James. “We always do everything we can regardless of how long they’re in the water and hope we can revive them.”

“I was freaking out,” Diana said.

Rescue crews performed life-saving measures before transporting him to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. Diana was speechless.

“I was there in the pond too… I saw everything,” she said. “I just… I just, I don’t know.”

Despite her shock and sadness, Diana said she’s at peace.

“I just feel like he did what the Lord wanted him to do,” said Diana. “I know where he’s at right now and I know that he died for a good cause.”

Diana hopes others will remember her husband the way she does.

“As a hero,” she said.

“Because he is… even before he saved that kid, he was a hero for his family and for me,” she added.

An autopsy is underway. Investigators hope it will answer more questions surrounding his death.

“We don’t know if he cramped up, we don’t know if he had a medical issue, if he was fatigued,” said Chief James. “We don’t know why he went under.”

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