Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said a man from Tanzania has drowned in the Buffalo River at Pruitt. Wheeler said his office received a call just before 6 p.m. on Monday, May 6th that a swimmer was in distress at the popular swimming hole.
Officials arrived on scene and were told by witnesses that the man had not been seen in several minutes. Witnesses said two men had swam across the river to reach a rope swing on the other side. Two friends, including the victim, were standing on the bank watching when the victim slipped and fell in the water and immediately became distressed. The second observer then jumped in to try and assist, but also found himself in trouble. The other two, who had swam across the river, were able to get back to the two distressed swimmers and rescued one, but the second went under and did not resurface.
Sheriff Wheeler said the victim was Allen Buberwa, aged 22. Buberwa is a native of Tanzania but was attending North Arkansas College as part of an international student program. Representatives of the college were on scene throughout the search and have been in contact with Buberwa's family both in the United States and in Tanzania.
Wheeler said personnel from the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Newton County OEM, National Park Service, BUFFSAR, Mennonite Disaster Services, Christian Action Ministries, Harrison Fire and Rescue, North Arkansas Regional Medical Center EMS, Air Evac Life Team, The American Red Cross, Jasper Fire Department, Hasty Fire Department, Krooked Kreek Fire Department and Mount Sherman Fire Department all responded to assist in searching for Buberwa. Divers located the body shortly after 11:00 P.M. and Newton County Coroner Cody Middleton pronounced him dead at the scene a short time later.
"This is such a tragic situation," Wheeler said. "This young man was here to further his education and had his entire life in front of him. Our prayers go out to his family and friends." Wheeler said that, despite the tragedy, the operation went smoothly. "We were able to put a lot of moving parts from a lot of different entities together in a very short period of time. The working relationship we have with these other agencies and the amazing servant's hearts so many from our community have enabled us to bring swift closure to this sad situation. I can never thank our fellow responders enough for all they do."
The river was considered at "High" stage and was slowly rising when the incident occurred.