Soksan Korm, center, with family (Courtesy/Aniqua Korm)
Breanna Schoene noticed Soksan Korm jumping off the dock at Turner Lake for more than an hour on a recent Sunday afternoon.
She had gone to the lake south of Salem on Aug. 8 after wildfire smoke had canceled her family’s plans for a camping trip. They went to the lake to have a barbecue instead, she said.
Korm was part of the large group, Schoene said, using the dock as a diving board along with the gaggle of cousins and kids from her family.
The group was still jumping when Schoene went to use the restroom, but when she came out, the dock was empty and people were screaming.
“Everyone was yelling, ‘He’s under the dock! Get him! I was confused because everyone was in the water and I was nervous because I thought it was one of the kids. But it wasn’t,” Schoene said.
Korm, 50, a Salem resident, had known how to swim for years, said his wife, Aniqua. But he wanted to get better. Schoene said she saw him with a life jacket most of the day before she noticed he had taken it off.
“My uncle told me later that they didn’t notice he didn’t come back up after he jumped until his son pulled on my uncle’s arm and said, ‘Can you help me? My dad went under and I couldn’t hold him up,’” Shoene said.
Korm had been jumping off the dock with his 10-year-old son Viseth when he jumped and didn’t come back up.
According to Turner Police, a call came in at 3:42 p.m. for a possible water rescue. Within four minutes, authorities said, a Turner Fire unit had arrived and an off-duty Turner Police officer responded in their personal vehicle.
“They stood around for a long time and told everyone to get out of the water but they didn’t get in the water and we were telling them he was under the dock, he’s pounding on the dock,” Shoene said on her second attempt to hold back tears during a phone interview describing what she saw.
“He was still struggling when rescue personnel made everyone leave the water. They stood there for 20 minutes on the dock he was stuck under and they let him die,” Aniqua said.
Turner Police Department released a statement that said rescuers were in the water within six minutes of arriving.
“Responders entered the water and completed an initial search around and under the indicated dock,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, the gentleman was not located during this time.”
Sgt. Jeremy Landers, Marion County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said when deputies arrive on scene the first thing they do is control the scene to make sure more people don’t fall victim to whatever the hazard is.
“If we think about those types of events, we control the scene so we can focus on just that missing individual,” he said.
Law enforcement from Marion County, Jefferson and Salem arrived and, according to the statement from Turner Police, Korm was found 45 minutes later in deep water.
“He should not have died like that,” said Aniqua Korm of her husband. “He was a good man. His smile is remembered by everyone. He was a godly man who helped anyone whenever they asked.”
It was Korm’s faith that drew the two together 28 years ago after Aniqua escaped a difficult marriage and drug addiction.
“He took me away from that life,” she said. “He gave me a reason to live and brought me to God.”
The couple have three children, 10-year-old Viseth, Kailey, 12, and Daniqa, 16.
Korm was the sole breadwinner for the family and the support for his wife who battles her own health struggles as well as his uncle who is living with stage four kidney failure.
He was also the love of Aniqua’s life.
“I have no clue what I’m going to do,” she said.
The family held a service for Korm on Aug. 12 and the community has rallied around the Salem family, with relatives starting a GoFundMe to help Aniqua make ends meet.
Saphara Harrell contributed reporting.
Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].
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