Family members of Somphaeng “Meo” Syvixay remember him for his sense of humor.
“If I close my eyes, I can just see his smile and his laugh,” said Dora Kouangothonh, Syvixay’s cousin.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Sunday that 35-year-old Syvixay drowned in Coralville Lake after jumping from a pontoon boat late Saturday night in the area of the diving rock near Scales Point.
Rescue crews recovered Syvixay’s body just before 9 p.m. Saturday. A news release from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said that the incident occurred when “two subjects began struggling in the water and one was pulled from the water by occupants on the pontoon. They were unable to then see or find the victim.”
Connie Phommaly said that she remembered her cousin as a devoted father to his 2-year-old son.
“He devoted every single day of his life to his son,” Phommaly said. “He always wanted to have a child, he always wanted to have a son.”
Phommaly and Kouangothonh also said that Syvixay, who moved back to the Iowa City area from California about six or seven years ago, was a great cook and known for his ability to make other’s laugh.
“He was the funny guy that was never angry. If there was ever a moment where there was tension, he would be the one to crack a joke and make us laugh,” said Phommaly. “It didn’t seem like anything ever made Meo angry.”
Shawn Meier, the district supervisor for the Iowa DNR, said that there were life jackets on the boat, but that Syvixay was not wearing one when he jumped from the pontoon. He also said that he did not know if Syvixay had been drinking. Meier said that this was the first drowning that he knew of in Johnson County this summer, but he was not sure if it was the first drowning of the year in Iowa.
Family members still are working to organize funeral arrangements, which they stated would remain local, but they will release that information once the details have been finalized.
Multiple agencies, including the North Liberty Police and Fire Departments, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers responded to the 911 call that came shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday. According to the sheriff’s department, the investigation of the drowning is ongoing.
The Clinton County Sheriff’s Office also responded to a boating accident Saturday that put five individuals into the water. Edwin Selser, of Davenport, and his two sons were able to make it to shore. The body of Nancy Selser, of Clinton, was recovered from the water and Charles Selser, also of Clinton, remains missing as of Sunday afternoon.
Meier said that being careful with alcohol consumption, as well as wearing a life jacket even if you are a strong swimmer, are steps that can be taken to be safer while out on the water this summer.
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