Beaver County teen drowns at southwest Utah reservoir

Tragedy • Students mourn athlete Zac Burke, who was well-liked in community.
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Students at two Beaver County high schools on Friday mourned Zac Burke, a popular 17-year-old multi-sport athlete who drowned in the south central Utah's Minersville Reservoir.

Burke, a gregarious senior at Beaver High School who also made numerous friends at neighboring Milford High School, was found by searchers in the reservoir 20 miles southwest of Beaver late Thursday night, said Undersheriff Cody Black.

He was the son of Todd and Stephanie Burke. Todd Burke is business administrator for the Beaver County School District.

Beaver High School Principal David Green said Zac Burke's death had stunned the community and students at both area high schools. More than 100 students gathered at BHS Friday morning to share memories of the youth; school grief counselors also were in attendance.

"Zac was just a very good, well mannered individual, very respected not only by the student body here but in surrounding communities," Green said. "He had a great sense of humor. He just loved everybody, and everybody loved him."

Burke, who has two younger brothers at BHS and also is survived by two sisters, was an "extreme athlete" who played on the school's football, basketball and track and field teams. Green also said the teen had recently signed up with the Utah Army National Guard.

"Beaver is a tight-knit community. It's a big hit, a big loss for the kids and the community, losing someone like Zac," Green added.

Even before the Beaver County Sheriff's Office had confirmed the drowning, a statement of condolence had been posted Friday morning on the Milford High School Facebook page:

"We are saddened to learn of the passing of Zac Burke. Zac graduated from Beaver High School last Thursday. He was well liked and had many friends in Beaver and Milford alike."

Black said his office had received a 911 call about a possible drowning at the reservoir at 6:24 p.m. Thursday. Arriving deputies were told by friends of Burke that he had attempted to swim across a cove, appeared to struggle, went under and did not resurface.

Beaver County Search and Rescue volunteers, aided by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter and the Washington County Dive Team, looked for Burke for several hours. His body was found just before 11 p.m. Thursday, close to where he was last seen swimming at the reservoir.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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