Sun Prairie, WI near-drowning, June 1981


Sun Prairie - Torrential rains nearly claimed the life of a 9-year-old boy who was wading in a giant puddle on a school athletic field Monday.

Robert Cooley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Cooley, 350 Sun Ct., was listed in critical condition at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison late Monday after rescuers plucked him from the end of a flooded culvert at Ashley Field.

The boy's breathing and heartbeat had stopped when his body was recovered from the chilly water at 12:39 p.m., about 17 minutes after he disappeared while wading in water up to 4 feet deep that had flooded part of the playing field.

Some of the boy's vital signs returned while he was being transported to a hospital, according to Sun Prairie Police Sgt. Thomas Lobe.

Gary Adkison, one of the energency medical technicians who found Robert said that, according to a witness:
"He was playing in the water (with two or three companions) and some lady asked the kids to get out.
"She said she started to walk away and turned around to make sure the kids were moving."

But, one of them was missing.

"There was a great suction" in the puddle, Adkinson said. "You could feel your foot going toward the culvert."

Police said the puddle was 50 to 75 feet in diameter.

"The body of water was an accumulation at the mouth of the culvert," said Lobe. "It was raining at the time and the amounts were so excessive, the culvert couldn't handle it.

"The rush of water through the culvert created the suction," he said.

Lobe said the area where the children were playing "is an open area and generally a safe area. Circumstances were extremely unusual there today."

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 16 Jun 1981