‘Life was just starting for her’: Family of 20-year-old woman who drowned in Lake Ontario speaks out

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WAYNE COUNTY, N.Y. — The drowning of 20-year-old DeAnna Melvin has left her family heartbroken.

It happened Saturday, July 22 on Lake Ontario in Chimney Bluffs State Park, in Huron, Wayne County.

DeAnna was from Greensboro, North Carolina and moved to Rochester just over a month ago.

“It’s just so hard, so hard! DeAnna was a loving beautiful person,” her aunt Keona Melvin said.

She said DeAnna was always smiling and living her best life until this tragic death.

“All she wanted to do was have fun and enjoy life. She was full of life, full of joy. Deanna would give you the clothes off her back. She was just a loving child, loved to dance,” she said.

News of her death has the family mourning, while searching for answers and closure.

The last time the family saw her was on Father’s Day. They were out at a restaurant when she walked in and surprised them. Days later, her dad helped her get ready to move to New York.

The family had concerns about her moving hundreds of miles away from the family. 

“He made sure her car was right. He didn’t want her to go, but he knew she was going to go anyway. But I told him all we can do is pray for her,” Melvin said.

Prayer and support from one another are how the family is trying to cope after learning of DeAnna’s death.

“I got a phone call, ‘she gone, she gone auntie!’ And I said who?  And she said ‘D! D drowned,’” Melvin explained.

The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office says DeAnna was on a pontoon boat on Lake Ontario with a group in the area of Chimney Bluffs State Park, in the town of Huron. They received 911 calls that two people were struggling in the water and one person went under.

People on shore were able to pull a 28-year-old man out of the water but were unable to locate DeAnna.

The Wayne County Sheriff’s Dive Team, Wayne County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol, road deputies and members of the New York State Police Aviation Unit, state troopers and the U.S Coast Guard helped find her. Eastern Wayne EMS and Silver Waters EMS also assisted.

“They searched the initial area, didn’t find her. Then we moved slightly east and put the divers back in the water.  And that’s where we were able to find her, about 15, 20 yards from the beach,” Boatswain Mate, 2nd class Zachary Ralston with the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The man who was rescued was checked over at Strong Memorial Hospital and released.

Ralston explained the weather conditions on Saturday afternoon, on the water were 1- to 2-foot rolling waves that made conditions rough on the lake.

Melvin says her niece knew how to swim, so they are trying to understand how this could’ve happened.

Now they are just praying for peace and understanding.

“We are saddened that hers was at 20. Life was just starting for her,” Melvin said.