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Boy drowns on birthday in Baltimore County lake

Saturday - 8/9/2014, 7:30am  ET

What started as a fun trip ended in tragedy

WTOP's Jamie Forzato

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WASHINGTON-- A 13-year-old boy on an outing with a Silver Spring-based camp drowned Friday afternoon in a lake at the Oregon Ridge.

Baltimore County Fire personnel received a call shortly before 12:30 p.m. to the county-owned beach in Cockeysville, Md. Witnesses on site said they saw the boy in distress and watched him go under water in a roped off area where swimming is permitted. Lifeguards searched for the boy immediately but were unable to find the victim before water rescue experts arrived and took over the search.

Rescuers recovered the boy's body shortly after 3 p.m. in approximately 45-feet of water. Police identified him as Dennis Kemp of Laurel.

Kemp was with the Wilderness Teen Program at Camp Sonshine in Silver Spring, Md. Friday was his 13th birthday.

"This has been the most difficult day of my 33 years with Camp Sonshine," says camp founder David Black, adding that this had been the first time in the camp's history that it had been affected by such a tragedy. "At Camp Sonshine, we think of ourselves as family."

Kemp had attended the camp since he was in first or second grade.

Children are required to pass a camp swimming test and an additional swimming test for the deeper area of the lake where the incident happened. Every swimmer from the Camp Sonshine group, including the victim, had passed the test.

County officials have closed the beach and the pavilion until further notice. The Oregon Ridge Nature Center will be closed for the weekend.

"Because safety is such a high priority for us and probably just because of the memories, we will probably not go back to the lake again. It's just going to be too hard for us. It's nothing against [Oregon Ridge], it's just the memory that is going to stay with us for a long time," Black says.

WTOP Reporter Jamie Forzato contributed to this report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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