‘I don’t think Micheal knew the gravity of what he was doing,’ aunt said about teen who drowned in river

Teen who drowned at Lake Natoma remembered by aunt

The body of 14-year-old Micheal Powell was recovered Wednesday, May 3, 2017 after the teen went missing on Monday evening while swimming with friends.
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The body of 14-year-old Micheal Powell was recovered Wednesday, May 3, 2017 after the teen went missing on Monday evening while swimming with friends.

Search-and-rescue teams late Wednesday morning recovered the body of a teen who drowned in the American River at Folsom earlier in the week.

Crews found the body of Micheal Powell, 14, about 50 feet from the shoreline near where authorities say he was last seen jumping off rocks Monday evening near Folsom’s Rainbow Bridge.

Powell was found three days after family said they last saw the Andrew Carnegie Middle School eighth-grader. It was about 7:15 p.m. Monday that Powell was was seen hanging out with a friend who attended the same school and lived at the same Orangevale apartment complex, said Joy Cox, the teen’s aunt. A chaplain met with the family hours after the body was found.

“That was one of our main goals,” Cox said. “Now we can move forward and work on putting together the pieces.”

What happened between when Cox last saw her nephew and a little after 8 p.m., when authorities were called about a teen who did not come up for air after jumping into the water, was not clear to her or Trina Davis, the boy’s grandmother and main caregiver. The women said they have heard different accounts from the boy’s friends and media reports about what transpired. They suspected a parent of a neighborhood boy drove the teen and a group of friends about 2 miles away to the riverfront and left them there, they said.

Neither woman was aware that Powell, who was intellectually disabled and had a speech and hearing impediment, was heading to the riverfront.

“How would I allow my (grandson) to go with people we barely even know?” Davis said Wednesday before Powell’s body was found. “I’m devastated. I couldn’t be there to take care of my baby.”

Micheal Powell, the 14-year-old teen who drowned at the American River, smiles for a photograph next to his aunt, Joy Cox. Photo courtesy of Joy Cox

No one answered when a Sacramento Bee reporter knocked on the neighbor’s door Wednesday afternoon.

Rich Preston, the superintendent for the California State Parks, said he could not provide details about the moments leading up to the drowning, citing an ongoing investigation. He confirmed that investigators believe Powell was not wearing a life jacket at the time of his death.

“I don’t think Micheal knew the gravity of what he was doing,” Cox said.

Cox, 21, said she viewed Powell as a younger brother given their close age and the bond the two shared growing up together. She described the 14-year-old as a sensitive giant, standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall, who liked to play football and basketball. Despite his height, he was gentle when playing with the younger children who lived in the apartment complex, she said.

Those young friends, and their parents, attended a barbecue and vigil for Powell on Tuesday night. Two candles placed in front of the family’s home continued to burn Wednesday morning.

A Yolo County Sheriff’s Department boat equipped with side-scanning sonar that can provide images of the lake bottom was brought in to aid the search efforts Wednesday. Two State Park boats and a Sacramento Drowning Accident Rescue Team were also on the water near Negro Bar State Park beach.

Water dogs that can pick up the scent of a human body stood at the helm of the motorboats, said Steve Hill of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue unit.

A dog picked up a scent about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in the general area where the youth was last seen in the water. A State Parks lifeguard dove from his personal watercraft into 14 feet of water to recover the body.

Preston said an investigator with the California State Parks department was brought in to find out what led to the teen’s death. That review is not a criminal investigation, he said.

Cox said the family was in the process of establishing a GoFundMe account Wednesday, with proceeds going toward a funeral for the teen.

Logan Robison, 24, of Sacramento, said he chose not to jump from the Rainbow Bridge in Folsom on Tuesday as a DART team and a State Parks patrol searched for the 13-year-old boy who jumped into the water Monday night and went missing.

The drought is over, but that doesn't mean the end of calamity for Northern California – the abundance of rain and snow could produce more wildfires and drownings, officials say.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets

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