Police working to answer why Lakeside Park drowning victim was in pond

UPDATE @ 8:14 p.m. (April 19): The family and friends of 18-year-old Chance Mills want to know how and why he ended up in the pond at Lakeside Park in Dayton, where his body was recovered by divers late this morning.

“We need everyone to send prayers up for the family,  [to] help everybody be strong,” family friend William McIntyre said.

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Dr. Kent Harshbarger, Montgomery County coroner, confirmed that Chance was recovered from the pond and pronounced deceased. The case remains under investigation by Dayton police, Harshbarger said in a statement.

Chance was reported missing just after 7:30 p.m. Thursday after witnesses told Dayton police and fire/rescue crews they saw him struggling to swim.

“Comments on the call [to 9-1-1] said there was someone in the water, they looked like they were having a hard time swimming,” Dayton police Sgt. Thomas Schloss said Thursday night.

The search for Chance in the pond at Lakeside Drive and Lakeview Avenue was suspended well after 11 p.m. because of darkness and resumed Friday morning, when divers from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, directed by spotters from the Dayton Fire Department and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, searched the general area where witnesses said Chance went into the water.

The area where divers recovered Chance was about 25 feet deep, Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Lykins said, and the water temperature was about 50 degrees.

PHOTOS: Search resumes for possible drowning victim at Lakeside Park in Dayton

“Most of our bodies of water are not meant for swimming; they’re meant for fishing and just enjoying being around the water,” he said. “It is marked and this is just a tragic accident.”

Complicating the search and recovery was the fact that the large pond recently was the focal point of a large public and private clean-up effort because there are vehicles, a piece of construction equipment and other debris in the water.

The water was so cold and dangerous that an unidentified woman, who rushed away from officers and went into the water in an attempt to find Chance, turned back to the bank almost immediately. Rescue crews helped her safely out of the water.

His family, still reeling from losing him, said Chance was a young man with a heart of gold.

“He’s a very respectful kid,” McIntyre said. “He’s 18 but he has the mind of an eight or 10-year-old.”

Chance also was someone who faced some developmental challenges as a student at the Montgomery County Educational Service Center West, a school where instructors work with special education students who struggle to succeed at their home school.

Superintendent Frank DePalma said Chance’s home district had originally been Kettering schools until a recent move to Dayton.

DePalma said Chance’s principal, TammiJo Slieff, described the young man as a student well-liked by faculty, staff and his fellow students.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time,” DePalma said.

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