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Grandson of drowning victim dies

Published June 25. 2012 05:03PM

The seven-year-old grandson of the Lehighton woman who drowned in the Lehigh River on Friday afternoon, died early Saturday morning at the Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township, where he was flown following the swimming accident.

The Lehigh County coroner's office said Nolan Ritchie, of 113 Sixth St., Coaldale, died at 1:05 a.m. The coroner's office said he died due to complications of drowning and ruled the death accidental.

Ritchie's grandmother, Wanda D. Wentz, 49, of Lehighton, died Friday afternoon. She was pulled from the river and taken to the Gnaden Huetten Campus of the Blue Mountain Health System, in Lehighton, where she was pronounced dead.

Wentz, Ritchie and another grandchild were reportedly swimming in the river below a trestle that spans the river between Lehighton and Weissport.

State police at Lehighton investigated the incident.

Reports indicated that two neighbors, a 14-year-old male and 6-year-old female, were walking along the river when a chain of tragic events unfolded.

Police said the female slipped off rocks and into the river under the trestle, an area known for its swirling water.

Trooper Joseph A. Campbell, the investigating officer, said the teenager jumped into the water to rescue his sister.

Meanwhile, the grandmother became disabled in the water and got separated from the grandson, and both began floating in the current, according to police.

The teenager, the six-year-old, and the other grandchild, all managed to get out of the river without injury.

Wentz and Ritchie were in the water for about 15 minutes before being rescued by passers-by and emergency personnel.

The first emergency personnel on the scene were police Officers Bob DeFuso and Ryan Kennedy from Lehighton, and Frank Lorah from Franklin Township. All entered the water and took part in the rescue efforts for the two victims.

Also arriving at the scene were the Lehighton and Franklin Township fire companies, Mahoning Township police, and Lehighton ambulance. Lehighton firemen operated from the Lehighton side of the river while the Franklin firefighters entered the river from the Weissport side.

Trooper Campbell said ambulance, fire personnel, and police immediately performed CPR on the victims. They were then transported by ambulance to the Lehighton hospital.

Wentz was pronounced dead by the emergency room physician at 4:48 p.m.

Ritchie was flown by MedEvac helicopter from the Lehighton hospital to the LVH.

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