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Drowning victim identified as CHS math teacher

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 7:47 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 6, 2014 1:47 p.m. CDT
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Red Oak dive and rescue team set up buoys in the water this morning at Twelve Mile Lake in preparation of the first dive to search for a missing Creston man.
Caption
Rich Gander, 45, Creston

4:30 p.m. Tuesday

AFTON — The name of the Creston man who drowned Monday evening in Twelve Mile Lake was released Tuesday.

The body of Rich Gander, 45, of Creston was recovered by divers about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday on the southwest side of the lake below about 15 feet of water.

Gander was reported missing 6:15 p.m. Monday when a fellow fisherman found an empty boat on the lake. Authorities searched the water for Gander until sundown Monday. The search continued 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning with assistance from Department of Natural Resources and Midwest Regional Dive team.

They found his body at about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday about 30 feet from the shore.

“This was a fast recovery,” said Mark Sedlmayr with the Department of Natural Resources, “which is great because in these situations it’s all about bringing closure to family. This recovery was a cooperative effort from the divers and several state and local entities.”

Gander was a mathematics teacher at Creston High School last school year and coached the Creston freshman softball team this summer. He also ran the game clock for all home basketball games last winter. He was about to start his second year with the Creston school system.

Bill Messerole, principal at Creston High School, worked with Gander for a total of 10 years in the Centerville and Creston school districts. He recruited Gander to come to Creston last year when a math position became available.

“He had a knack for taking a room of students — some of which do not like math or even school — and getting them to learn,” Messerole said. “That’s why I recruited him. He could control a classroom and do it with dignity and respect for the students. He will be missed.”

Mike McCabe, head softball coach at Creston, said Gander did an excellent job with the young Panther softball players.

“He would do anything for you and for the kids is what I have come to find out in our time together,” McCabe said. “He had a good perspective on athletics and what that experience is supposed to be — that there’s a lot more to it than just the winning and losing, that there’s a lot of life lessons there.”

Messerole said counselors at the high school are available today and in the future for grieving students.

Gander is a graduate of Lynnville-Sully High School. He was unmarried and had no children. Messerole said most of his family lives in the Newton area and he also has several friends in the Centerville School District.

One of those friends was fellow teacher Matt Kruzich, who was hired the same year (1998) as Gander in Centerville. Kruzich said they became friends through conversations about how to connect with students, music and athletics.

“He was a music buff,” Kruzich said. “He liked alternative music best — bands like U2, R.E.M. and Rush. We also compared notes about students and how to connect and motive them. This is a tragic loss. He’s a friend and fellow educator that will be greatly missed.”

Kruzich did say Gander didn’t participate in a lot of group activities at Centerville. He liked doing hobbies — like fishing — alone for the most part.

Authorities confirmed this morning that Gander was alone Monday evening and not wearing a life jacket. They did say two unused life jackets were found inside Gander’s boat during the search Monday into Tuesday.

This is the first drowning on a major lake in Union County since June 1999 when Don Newton of Kellerton jumped into Three Mile Lake to retrieve a water ski and never resurfaced. Newton was not wearing a life jacket.

(CNA Sports Editor Scott Vicker contributed to this story)


10:45 a.m.

The body of a Creston man — who drowned Monday evening at Twelve Mile Lake near Afton — was recovered by divers around 9:30 a.m. today.

The name and age of the man will be released after the family has been notified at about 5 p.m. today. Mark Sedlmayer with the Department of Natural Resources said the body was found by divers on the southwest side of the lake below about 15 feet of water.

"This was a fast recovery," Sedlmayer said, "which is great because in these situations it's all about bringing closure to family. This recovery was a cooperative effort from the divers and several state and local entities."

The man was reported missing 6:15 p.m. Monday when a fellow fisherman found an empty boat on the lake.

Dive teams searched the water for the man until sundown Monday. The search continued 7:30 a.m. this morning with assistance from Department of Natural Resources and Midwest Regional Dive team. They found the man's fishing equimpment other personal items.

The Midwest Regional Dive team consists of the Red Oak and Clarinda fire departments, Cass and Ringgold County dive teams and Adams County emergency management.

Sedlmayer said this is the first drowning on any major lake in Union County in 10 years.

——————

9:15 a.m.

The search for a Creston man resumed this morning at Twelve Mile Lake near Afton.

The man went missing 6:15 p.m. Monday when a fellow fisherman found an empty boat on the lake. Authorities believe the man drowned.

Dive teams searched the water for the man until sundown Monday. The search continued 7:30 a.m. this morning with assistance from Department of Natural Resources and Midwest Regional Dive team.

"We hope to find him fast," said Mark Sedlmayer with the Department of Natural Resources. "We have seven or eight boats on the water this morning. We're hopeful, but we don't know exactly where he fell in so the search area is huge. There is about 50 acres of water in Twelve Mile."

The empty boat was found on the southwest corner of Twelve Mile Lake, near the dam. Authorities have placed orange buoys on the water to mark where the man's fishing equipment and other personal items were found.

Neither the name or age of the man will be released until there is confirmation of the drowning and family has been notified.

Authorities remind anglers and others the lake will be closed to all boating activity for at least today.

The Midwest Regional Dive team consists of the Red Oak and Clarinda fire departments, Cass and Ringgold County dive teams and Adams County emergency management.

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