SARANAC LAKE - A 19-year-old visitor to the Adirondacks drowned Saturday evening while swimming in Upper Saranac Lake, 15 feet from the shore.
Keenen J. Green and some friends had just arrived from Rochester that day for a volunteer work session to help prepare Young Life's Saranac Village camp for the summer season: painting, landscaping, general maintenance - that kind of thing. The session didn't officially begin until a gathering at 10 o'clock that night, since volunteers were driving up from all over the Northeast that day.
"I don't know exactly how long they'd been here, but not long at all," Camp Manager Ryan Silvius told the Enterprise Sunday. Silvius never got the chance to meet Green.
State police report that sometime around 7:30 p.m., Green and friends went swimming in the lake at a place commonly known as the "Point." While swimming with a friend, he became distressed, called for help, struggled to keep himself afloat and started to sink. He was about 15 feet from shore in water about 10 feet deep.
"Several other volunteer staff members attempted to rescue Green, but were unsuccessful," state police reported in a press release. "Green went under the water and never resurfaced. Young Life staff members were called to the scene to assist in locating Green, who was found unresponsive laying on a rock approximately 15 feet from shore in water approximately 8 feet deep. Staff members initiated CPR until the Tupper Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad arrived on the scene."
With the Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake rescue squads on scene, Green was transported to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, where he was pronounced dead by Physicians Assistant Gary Nye.
Dr. C. Francis Varga performed an autopsy and found the cause of death to be drowning. Franklin County Coroner Ron Keough ruled it accidental.
"It's just unbelievably tragic," Silvius said. "Life is precious gift, and our sympathies are with Keenan's family and friends."
Young Life is a national, non-denominational Christian organization whose mission is outreach to adolescents. More than 3,000 high schoolers go to its Saranac Village camp on Upper Saranac Lake each summer, plus a week of junior high schoolers. They come from all over the nation, although Silvius said most come from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states - from Virginia and Ohio north.
"The deceased was a college student, who was at the camp prior to the beginning of a camp week for which he was to serve as a volunteer," Young Life said in a press release from its national headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. "While we are not at liberty to discuss details of this accident because an investigation by authorities is underway, we want to express our deepest sympathies to this young man's family and friends for their loss."
The Saranac Village camp relies on more than 500 adult volunteers before and throughout each summer season, Silvius said. These often come from Young Life groups around the country. Green wasn't a member of the Rochester Young Life group, but the friends he rode up with were, according to Silvius.
Deaths are rare at Adirondack summer camps, but they have happened before. A St. Lawrence University student drowned in 2007 at the university's Canaras camp on Upper Saranac Lake, and a 15-year-old camper died at Camp Regis-Applejack in Paul Smiths in 2002.
(Editor's note: This article has been altered to reflect that Silvius said, "our sympathies are with Keenan's family and friends" - not "with Keenan and his family and friends" - and to clarify that the camp has adult volunteers throughout the summer season, not just before it.)