Northeast Tarrant

Athlete from Keller dies in swimming accident hours after his community college graduation

A budding student-athlete from Keller, Chase Dennis, died while swimming with friends after his community college graduation in Coffeyville, Kansas, on Saturday.
A budding student-athlete from Keller, Chase Dennis, died while swimming with friends after his community college graduation in Coffeyville, Kansas, on Saturday. Courtesy

A budding student-athlete from Keller died while swimming with friends after his graduation from community college in Coffeyville, Kansas, on Saturday, authorities said.

Chase Dennis, 20, a sophomore and track athlete at Coffeyville Community College, died Saturday afternoon at nearby Big Hill Lake while swimming with his friends, Labette County Sheriff Darren Eichinger said.

Eichinger said Dennis was swimming with his girlfriend Saturday afternoon when he went under and never resurfaced. He said a dispatcher got the call about 2:52 p.m.

Eichinger said the sheriff's office, the Cherryville Fire Department, Kansas Fishing Game Warden and several other agencies responded to the area where Dennis' friend said he was last seen.

"Him and his friend were swimming near the area where the beach area divides from the lake near a set of buoys," the sheriff said. "As they were swimming back she got ahead of him and heard him begin yelling for help."

Eichinger said Dennis' friend tried to help pull him from the water but couldn't. He said she swam back to shore and called for help. A little more than a half-hour later, at 3:35 p.m., divers found Dennis and pulled him from the water.

"We tried to do CPR and revive him but it was too late," Eichinger said.

The community college issued a statement afterward and said counselors would be available to assist students, faculty and staff who wanted to talk about the tragedy.

“Each student at Coffeyville Community College is integral to the family dynamic of our campus. To lose one of our own greatly wounds us all,” CCC President Linda Moley said in a news release.

Dennis, a Keller resident who graduated from Timber Creek High School in 2016, ranked third nationally in the discus and fourth in the hammer at CCC heading into the NJCAA national outdoor track meet this week.

“He was a fantastic kid, hard-worker, and always did everything we asked him to do," CCC track coach Craig Perry said in the news release. "He was full of life."

The national meet is being held in El Dorado, Kansas. Perry said Dennis had signed a letter of intent with Northwestern State University in Louisiana just days before the swimming accident.

In Keller, Timber Creek’s Athletic Booster Club has begun a scholarship fund to be awarded in Dennis' name at the school's track and field banquet on Friday, the Timber Creek Talon student news outlet said.

A candlelight vigil for Dennis is planned for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the discus circle at Timber Creek High School. Those who plan to attend are asked to bring an item symbolizing Dennis.

A wake will be conducted on Monday at Sunset Baptist Church at 721 Manning Street in Grand Prairie, according to the Talon. Funeral services are scheduled the next day, May 22, at 11 a.m. at the same location.

A Keller loss would have likely put Fossil Ridge, Timber Creek, Keller Central and Haltom in the post season. Instead, the Indians won 21-14.

Prescotte Stokes III: 817-390-7028, @PrescotteStokes
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram