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Johnson Co. Sheriff’s Office takes lead on Whiteland drowning investigation

A sign outside Whiteland Community High School in Whiteland, Indiana, where a 15-year-old student drowned during PE class on May 16. (WISH Photo)

WHITELAND, Ind. (WISH) — The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has taken over the investigation into the apparent drowning of a 15-year-old girl at Whiteland Community High School.

The student was swimming laps in PE class with other students Tuesday morning when she went under the water near the bulkhead that divides the pool, Clark-Pleasant Schools Superintendent Patrick Spray said Wednesday.

The girl was pulled from the water but did not survive. Spray says a lifeguard and instructor were on the pool deck at the time of the incident.

Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess said Thursday that he spoke with officials from Clark-Pleasant Schools and the Clark-Pleasant School Police, and all involved agreed that it would be “in the best interest of everyone involved” if the sheriff’s office took over the investigation.

“Having an outside agency investigate a death of this nature will ensure complete transparency in the case and will allow the full resources of the sheriff’s office to be committed to the investigation,” Burgess said in a release.

Burgess says multiple detectives have already been assigned to the case and are meeting with school officials to begin the transfer of information and evidence.

Investigators from the sheriff’s office were present during the autopsy, according to Burgess, but the cause of death will not be determined until toxicology results are processed, which could take several weeks.

“We are aware of the rumors, theories, and false information being spread on social media. We will thoroughly investigate every tip or piece of information we receive, but these things take time,” Burgess added.

Burgess asks that the public respect the wishes and privacy of the family during the investigation.

“We are in constant contact with the family and Clark Pleasant School administrators and will release information at the appropriate times.”

Classes at Whiteland Community High School resumed Thursday. Counselors will be available to students through the end of the school year.

The school’s swimming pool will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, which ends May 26.