Family says missing Fort Sumner man loved lake

Courtesy photo: Shauna Walker s Family members are hopeful the body of Josh Kenyon will be recovered soon. Kenyon is believed to have drowned in Lake Sumner Sunday.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

As family members, park officials and volunteers patrolled Sumner Lake on Tuesday searching for missing 27-year-old Josh Kenyon, his dog Jade sat on the bank waiting for her owner to return.

Kenyon was last seen Sunday trying to climb on his jet ski after a fall. Police and family members believe he drowned.

“She stands at the water’s edge, she knows he’s gone,” Shauna Walker said Tuesday as the search for her brother’s body stretched into a third day. “His best friend is his dog Jade. If you see one, you see the other.”

Walker said she, her sister and parents traveled from their homes in Louisiana, Kansas and Arizona when they learned Kenyon had gone missing.

“We just want to find him so bad,” said Walker, her voice choking through tears. “It’s hard to come home every night knowing that he’s in the lake. We want him home. We don’t want him alone out there.”

Walker said her brother had spent Saturday night with friends and Sunday on his jet ski.

Kenyon, a 1999 Fort Sumner High graduate, was last seen around 6 p.m. Sunday while jet skiing in the northwest part of the lake. Witnesses told officials he was trying to get back on the jet ski when he went under the water.

Walker said her brother, who moved around while working for the railroad, returned to Fort Sumner last year to work on his grandparent’s farm, was raised around the lake and loved it.

The middle child and only boy in the family, she described him as a motorcycle enthusiast who got along with everybody and had a diverse collection of friends.

He was a strong swimmer and owned a jet ski, taking to the water whenever he got the chance.

Walker said no one understands why he chose to take one more run on the jet ski after he had removed his life vest and everyone in the group was packing up to head home.

State police dive teams withdrew from the search around noon Tuesday, turning the search over to park personnel, according to state police Sgt. Andy Tingwall.

Walker said family, friends and volunteers had gathered boats and taken to the lake Tuesday, battling choppy surface water and high winds to continue the search.

“We have not given up and right now there are members of the community out there in their own boats,” she said.

Sumner Lake, which has a surface area of about 4,500 acres, is located approximately 16 miles northwest of Fort Sumner.

New Mexico Parks and Wildlife Public Information Officer Marti Niman said park personnel will continue to patrol and search the lake on a regular basis in the hope of recovering the body.

Niman said drowning cases are more common at the larger lakes in the state. She said she could not recall any drowning cases at Sumner Lake.

Drownings often occur even with experienced swimmers because of a multitude of factors, the most common of which are not wearing a life vest and water temperature.

“You can really overestimate your ability to swim especially when the water is cool,” she said, explaining the lower temperatures affect muscle coordination and stamina. In most cases a life vest can buy a victim the time they need to be rescued, she said.

Walker said she hopes the loss of her brother will serve as a reminder to people to stay safe on the water.

“We just want everybody to (remember) if you’re going to enjoy the lake, please, please wear life vests. He knew that but he just maybe thought, ‘well it won’t happen to me,’” she said through tears.