Two Kansas City policemen from the Sheffield Station drowned late yesterday in Lake Lotawana while practicing skin diving in training for a water rescue unit being formed in the police department.
The victims were Sgt. Keiffer Burris, 46, and Patrolman Herbert Bybee, 31. Burris, who was organizing the rescue unit, was teaching Bybee how to use the diving equipment.
Bodies from water
Burris' body was pulled from the lake by N. C. Limpus, Lot Z-15, at Limpus' fishing dock about 5:45 o'clock. Bybee's body was taken from the lake about 7:15 o'clock by Ray Van Scoy, Lot M-113, who grappled for the body about 45 minutes.
The two policemen arrived at the lake about 4:30 o'clock, William Parker, Lot Z-18 said. They were using the fishing dock of Parker, a retired police lieutenant colonel, in their drills.
Parker's lot is on the east side of the lake, near the dam.
Parker said he had finished dinner about 5:15 o'clock and was standing in a doorway of his house, about 75 feet from the dock, when he saw Burris sitting on the end of the dock. He also saw bubbles rising about10 feet from the end of the dock, he said, and then saw Burris put on diving equipment and dive into the water.
Nothing strange in the act
Parker said he thought nothing unusual about this at the time because he had seen the two men do it before. He left the doorway to take a nap.
It was about 30 minutes later that Limpus pulled Burris' body from the water.
Limpus and his wife were fishing at their dock, two lots away from the Parker lot.
He said he saw something that looked like an inner tube about 25 feet from where he stood.
"I cast toward it and hooked it," Limpus said. "I reeled it in and when it got within about 5 feet of the dock, I saw it was a diving suit."
Limpus then saw a hand and pulled the body out.
Respiration is Begun
Mrs. Limpus, who was on the dock with her husband, went for help and Limpus began artificial respiration on Burris. Claude Ross, city marshal of Lake Lotowana, arrived shortly afterward and assisted Limpus.
They continued to administer mouth-to-mouth respiration, standard respiration, and oxygen.
When it was learned from Parker that Bybee had been with Burris, Van Scoy began grappling in the area around Parker's dock. Bybee's body was found about 40 feet from the end of the dock in the water about 30 feet deep.
Doctor arrives at the scene
Bybee also was given artificial respiration until Dr. A. E. Linville, a resident of the lake area who had been summoned arrived about 7:45 o'clock and pronounced both men dead.
"When I saw Keiffer, he was sitting on the end of the dock and the bubbles were coming up about 10 feet from the end of the dock, " Parker said. "It's only a supposition, but Keiffer must have realized that the boy was in trouble and jumped in to rescue him."
In steady stream
Parker said that he remembered when thinking back to what happened the the bubbles rising were in a steady stream and not in rhythmical bursts as in normal breathing with diving equipment.
Parker believes Bybee's mouthpiece came out, causing the steady stream of bubbles which Burris saw just before he jumped in.
Parker said both men had been wearing weight belts when he saw them earlier. Neither had a belt on when pulled from the lake.
When pulled from the water, Burris was wearing a rubber jacket, metal air tank, face mask, air mouth piece, trunks, and swim fins. The face mask and mouthpiece were twisted around to the back of his head.
Bybee was wearing only a metal air tank, swim fins, and trunks.
Bybee's wife was visiting her mother at Enable, Mo., when the drownings occurred.
Burris, of 3815 Bell Street, was sworn into the police department June 24, 1942, and was promoted to sergeant June 1, 1958.
Bernard C. Brannon, chief of police, said Burris was an experienced skin diver and had been called upon previously when a skin diver was needed in this area. He said Burris recently had been helping to organize an underwater recovery unit, which was to be part of the police department's disaster unit.
Work on the new unit started about three weeks ago. Brannon and Burris was assembling equipment and personnel for the unit. About four men had been selected for training including Bybee.
Sergeant Burris was wounded in a gun battle in 1948 deemed the Paseo Massacre in which four patrolmen, a suspect and a citizen were killed. He was hit twice by bullets fired by a berserk man during the wild shooting the took place at 1334 the Paseo. The gun battle was termed a new record in Kansas City violence, being the worst since five persons were killed in the "Adam God" riot of 1908, the Union Station Massacre of 1933 in which five were killed including two Kansas City police officers, a McAlester police chief and an FBI agent.