TRAVERSE CITY — Owen Williamson’s friends said he could’ve been a star on Saturday Night Live.
He seemed to be on his way. Owen, 17, earned lead roles singing and acting in productions at Traverse City West Senior High, where he was a junior. He remained as humble in his major role as the Beast in the music department’s spring production of “Beauty and the Beast” as he was as a freshman with a small solo in “Phantom of the Opera.”
“He knew that he was talented, but that drove him to take more risks — acting or singing risks,” said fellow West student Hannah Will, 18, who sang with Owen in Chorale and Choral-Aires, a group recognized this year as the top Youth Art Festival ensemble choice. “He strived to just be a better performer.”
Friends and others recalled Owen on Saturday, a day after he drowned while swimming with choir friends at Twin Lakes Park in Grand Traverse County’s Long Lake Township. Owen was the third person to drown at the lake since 2010.
Owen and about 10 others stopped at the park off Long Lake Road on Friday around 4 p.m. for a quick dip before a graduation party. The majority of the group swam from the main beach to another beach area, while a few others and Owen, who was not a strong swimmer, stayed behind in the water where they could stand, Will said.
The swimmers walked back on a trail when a friend called out that Owen was nowhere to be found.
“I assumed they had their backs turned for a brief moment and turned around and he wasn’t there anymore,” Will said.
A friend swam out and found Owen, then pulled him to the surface, but he was already unconscious, Will said. Grand Traverse sheriff’s deputies and Long Lake Township firefighters reached him with an inflatable boat and rope and attempted to revive him at the shore. He was sent to Munson Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.