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Teenage drowning victim found at Kanopolis Lake
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By Jim Misunas
jmisunas@gbtribune.com

KANOPOLIS LAKE — A three-day search for a drowning victim ended when a body of an 18-year-old teenager surfaced at Kanopolis Lake at 8 a.m. Friday, according to the Ellsworth County sheriff.
Ellsworth County Sheriff Tracy Ploutz said the body of Salina’s Derek Wheeler, 18, washed ashore at Boldt Bluff in the southwest corner of Kanopolis Lake.
Ellsworth County deputies and personnel from the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were working Friday morning.  
Ploutz said the Ellsworth determined the cause of death to be drowning and an autopsy would not be performed.
“Nothing looked suspicious and blood samples were tested,” he said.
Ploutz said a sonar device gave rescuers a clue where the body was located late Thursday when the search was called off for the night.
“Boldt Bluff is a long way from where they camped,” he said.
Wheeler became a drowning victim when a trio of Salina men started kayaking early Tuesday morning at Kanopolis Lake.
Wheeler’s kayak apparently flipped over about 2 a.m. Tuesday at Kanopolis Lake because of windy conditions.
Ploutz said two other kayakers, ages 19 and 20, attempted to help Wheeler, but were forced to abandon their rescue attempt and swim to shore after they were also flipped out of their capsized kayaks in windy conditions.  
Rescue personnel also included Ellsworth Emergency Management, Kansas Highway Patrol, Marquette EMS, American Red Cross, K-9 Search and Rescue of Kansas, Plainville emergency and Saline County Mounted Police and Rescue.
“We appreciate all of the assistance we received,” Ploutz said. “
Ploutz said an airplane was dispatched from the Kansas Highway Patrol and rescue operations were conducted on the water and near the shore with sonar and infrared technology.
Ploutz said the young men were camping at Sandy Plum campground on the south shore of Kanopolis Reservoir. They decided to travel on kayaks about 2 a.m. in dark conditions since no moon was out at the time.