The 16-year-old girl who drowned after spending 40 minutes submerged in Cedar Lake last Sunday has been identified as Chiccena Carpenter of Minneapolis.
The identity was released Wednesday by the Hennepin County medical examiner's office. The official cause of death was listed as an accidental drowning.
At about 2:15 on Sunday, responders began searching for the Carpenter, who was swimming with friends and jumping off a floating dock when she did not resurface.
Yet, family members -- who they called Chi-Chi -- say they never knew she had gone to the lake in the first place. Nicole Page, Carpenter's aunt, told FOX 9 News the girl who just turned 16 in April knew how to swim, but wasn't a strong swimmer.
"We're doing the best we can with the situation. Sometimes it's harder," Page said.
Carpenter's bedroom is filled with the things she loved, but it has now become a shrine to a young life that ended too soon.
"She loved to draw, loved to read, loved Internet apps with cartoon characters. She just loved life," Page said. "She embraced it all."
Page said she doubts her niece had any idea how deep the water in the lake was -- especially since she wasn't supposed to be there. Family members thought she was on the way to the downtown library with her cousin. Instead, a friend persuaded the pair to go to Cedar Lake.
Page told FOX 9 News that friend's father dropped of the teens at the lake and then left even though there was no lifeguard on duty. Within minutes, Carpenter and her cousin were swimming to the dock a few yards from shore.
"She was on the dock or near the dock and said Chi-Chi was pulling her underwater and she couldn't get her," Page said. "She said, 'Mom, I tried to save her. I tried to save her but I couldn't get her.'
That's when Page's daughter swam back to shore and asked people on the beach to help look for Carpenter. Some even formed a human chain, but it took 40 minutes for divers to find her in 10 feet of murky water.
Today, Page says her daughter still blames herself for not being able to save her cousin.
"I told her, 'It could have been you down there with her,'" Page said. "So, we're thankful she didn't end up part of this tragedy too."
Now, Carpenter's family says they want Minneapolis to keep its beaches closed when there is no lifeguard on duty to avoid losing another life. The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board said there just aren't enough lifeguards to go around this year, but they are hiring.
Carpenter had been in the water for about 10 minutes before emergency responders arrived, and spent a total of about 40 minutes submerged. Rescue divers found the teen in about 12 feet of water by the dock, nearly 100 feet from shore.
Paramedics spent 20 minutes with Carpenter at the scene before taking her to HCMC, where she died.
A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. on Saturday at True Vine Church at West Broadway and Thomas avenues in Minneapolis.
WJBK-TV | Fox 2
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