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Family identifies 14-year-old who drowned at Utah reservoir as family's 'rock'

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NEWCASTLE, Iron County — Family members have identified the 14-year-old boy who died Saturday after drowning in Iron County.

Kevin Cooper, 14, and his 17-year-old brother, from Beryl in Iron County, were in kayaks at Newcastle Reservoir when Kevin went under water, the Iron County Sheriff's Office said. Neither of the brothers was wearing a life jacket at the time.

Authorities have said the teens were trying to "knock each other out of their kayak" at the time, but friends disputed that on social media. A woman on Facebook, who described Kevin as her "honorary" grandchild, said authorities got that information from "just one source who may have mistaken what he saw."

She said the reports are causing guilt for his brother who "tried everything he could to save him."

Sheriff's officials said Kevin did not know how to swim and went under in about 10-12 feet of water. He had been underwater for about 10 minutes by the time 911 was called, police said. First responders and search and rescue crews recovered his body early Sunday morning.

"The Iron County Sheriff's Office would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of this young man who lost his life in this tragic event," the sheriff's office said.

On a GoFundMe campaign, the woman describes Kevin as a "treasure" in the community and his family's "rock."

"Kevin was constantly a happy kid who thrived on making other people smile and inspiring others to excel at whatever life goals they had. Kevin had a sense of ambition that was second to none," she said.

The teen managed his own homeschooling and ran a small farm that he started at age 7, according to the campaign. He also worked online as an advocate for homeschooling, "kid entrepreneurship," and water conservation, friends said.

Kevin also published a book, one of two that he had written. The campaign noted he was the son of a disabled veteran and the only family member who didn't have a disability.

"He was faithfully by his dad's side when his dad needed help, while working and planning to support his autistic brother when they grew up," friends said.

The family is now dealing with the loss of veteran's disability dependent income, bills for Kevin's businesses, legal and accounting fees for shutting down the business, "all while facing typical end-of-life expenses and helping their surviving son through this tragedy."

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Ashley Imlay covers state politics and breaking news for A lifelong Utahn, Ashley has also worked as a reporter for the Deseret News and is a graduate of Dixie State University.


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