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Tarentum boy who drowned was 'a beautiful soul'

Matthew Medsger
| Monday, June 19, 2017, 5:45 p.m.
Isaiah Helenkamp, 10, drowned in Bull Creek in Tarentum on Saturday.
Courtesy of Simone Helenkamp
Isaiah Helenkamp, 10, drowned in Bull Creek in Tarentum on Saturday.

Simone Helenkamp had warned her son repeatedly not to swim in Bull Creek.

“When I first moved here two years ago, they talked about this creek all the time,” Helenkamp, of Tarentum, said Monday. “I told my children that they were not allowed down there at all.

“If we went by there and they mentioned it, I told them not to go down there.”

But she said Isaiah, 10, had a way of getting what he wanted.

He left the house with friends Saturday afternoon to play in the creek. He disappeared about 4:30 p.m., and authorities recovered his body about 7 p.m. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death an accidental drowning.

Helenkamp described Isaiah as a good-hearted and kind boy, but she said he was also energetic and headstrong.

“He was on punishment that day,” Helenkamp said. “He wasn't supposed to be outside.”

One of six children, Isaiah was not a strong swimmer, Helenkamp said, and the waters of Bull Creek looked dangerous enough for her to order them to stay away.

Isaiah was to have started his first day of football practice Monday, she said.

“He was so excited, it was all he would talk about,” he said. “His first practice was supposed to be today. He wanted to play football so much.”

Helenkamp said her son, a student at Grandview Upper Elementary School, liked school, received good grades and last year ran for class president. She described Isaiah as artistic and a music lover who loved to play piano. She said she was certain that he was a handful for school staff.

“He was very popular, but he gave those teachers a run for their money. He was so headstrong,” she said.

Helenkamp said friends and family have been by her side since the accident, and she is trying to rely on her faith to stay strong.

“He was a beautiful soul,” she said. “Even though my heart is breaking, I know God has another plan for him. Even though I would love to know why he is gone, I have to keep going for the rest of them.”

Robert Vining, Isaiah's father, could not be reached for comment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was an average of 3,536 unintentional fatal drownings that didn't involve a boat annually in the United States from 2005 to 2014 — about 10 deaths per day.

About one in five people who drown are children 14 and younger, according to the CDC.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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