Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division have been investigating the June 13 death of a young man that occurred at the Rocky Gorge Reservoir located on the Patuxent River.
The victim is identified as Douglas Alex Merino, age 20 from the 500 block of Summit Hall Road in Gaithersburg. An autopsy that was completed in Baltimore by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause and manner of death to be an accidental drowning.
On June 13, police and fire and rescue personnel were notified by a call to the Montgomery County 911 emergency call center at approximately 4:44 p.m. for a possible drowning.
The initial emergency response was a rescue mission coordinated by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, Howard County Fire and Rescue, and the Natural Resources Police. At approximately 6:05 p.m., the rescue personnel found and recovered Merino’s body in the water. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The preliminary investigation by Montgomery County police detectives developed that Merino and two friends went to the Rocky Gorge Reservoir to fish. Merino entered the water to swim and was observed struggling in the water before going under. The victim’s friends called 9-1-1.
Public Safety responders offer the following important reminders:
Swimming in lakes, rivers, or other natural bodies of water should only occur at a designated swimming area that is protected by lifeguards.
Always respect signs posted at natural bodies of water prohibiting bathing, wading or swimming. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission notes on its website that these are prohibited activities at the Rocky Gorge Reservoir. These activities are also prohibited in the Potomac River at Great Falls Park in Maryland and Virginia.
If you have not seen a sign or a designated swimming area, always assume that any natural body of water is too dangerous for bathing, wading or swimming. Swimming in a natural body of water is different from swimming in a pool. Particularly for a novice swimmer, but even for an experienced swimmer, more skills and energy are required for natural water environments because there are:
- Fast-moving currents, waves and rapids, even in shallow water
- Hazards, such as dams, underwater obstacles, or rocks or debris moving on the surface or along the bottom of the water
- Sudden drop-offs that change water depths
- Aquatic life, such as vegetation that could entangle feet and arms
- Conditions can change quickly
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