Aug. 12, 2011, 10:35PM
After a morning practice session Friday, Benjamin Ola and four of his teammates on Travis High School’s junior varsity football team decided to cool off in the murky waters of the Brazos River.
Hours later, authorities fished the body of the 17-year-old student from the river bottom while his grief-stricken father wondered how such a thing could have happened to his strong, athletic son.
“Ben is 6-4, a lifeguard and a very good swimmer,” said Isaac Ola, who emigrated from Nigeria to Fort Bend County with his wife and two sons in 2004. “I wouldn’t have expected him to go to that kind of river to swim.”
Authorities said Ola and his friends went to the river to cool off after practice and were clinging to a log near the river’s edge. A strong current dislodged the log, separating the group and sending them farther down the river, said Master Sgt. Lowell Neinast of the Richmond Police Department.
The other teens told police the last time they saw Ola, shortly before 10 a.m., he appeared to be swimming well. When he took a breath and went under, they had no idea he was having trouble, they told police. The boy’s body was found Friday afternoon near the spot where his teammates last saw him.
“It’s extremely hot, and the kids had just got out of football practice out here to cool off,” Neinast said. “I can see him cramping up very easily.”
Ola’s teammates managed to make it out. The water, murky with zero visibility, is 6 to 15 feet deep with a strong current, Neinast said.
Neinast said the river is on a nature reserve where kids often come to hike and play. He said the river is blocked off by a wire cable to discourage swimming because of the treacherous conditions.
“There is a barrier to stop people from going over,” Neinast said. “But we can’t be here for 24 hours.”
About a dozen of Ola’s family members and friends converged on the river Friday afternoon. Most were too emotional to speak.
Isaac Ola said Benjamin was very intelligent and was looking forward to the new school year. He aspired to be a doctor.
At the high school, the task of informing the team that Ola was missing and perhaps drowned fell to Travis head football coach Randy Cunningham. After breaking the news at a 2 p.m. meeting in the weight room, Cunningham led the team in prayer.
After the meeting, the players walked back to their cars, many of them in tears.
“This is just devastating news for us,” said Victoria Smith, who said her son and Ola were best friends. She described him as a good young man who never got into trouble. She said he hoped to earn a college football scholarship.
All student activities at Travis High School were canceled for the weekend. Counselors and staff planned to be available at the Travis Field House until 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“It is a tragedy, when school is about to start, and football season is right around the corner,” Neinast said. “I know they were getting excited about football.”
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
25511495 631 42
his path of destiny = 42 = Everybody loved Benjamin.
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