Public Safety

Sheriff's office: Tiffin teen drowned in Coralville Lake and no one called 911

Noah Herring
Noah Herring

Three teenagers and an adult were present April 7 when Noah Herring drowned in Coralville Lake.

None of them called 911 to get help for the 15-year-old, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said Friday at the conclusion of its investigation into the boy’s death.

Between the time Noah went missing that day and his fate was learned, his family in Tiffin endured four days that were too devastating to put into words, said Amber Herring, his cousin.

“We know that four people knew where he was and they chose not to call for help or come forward, and then actively lied during the investigation,” she said in a Facebook post, speaking on behalf of the family.

“This has led to nothing but anger. We have had to learn how to live without Noah and are still trying to process these events and eventually we hope we can grieve his death.”

According to the sheriff’s office, Noah was near the Diving Rock area of the Coralville Lake near Scales Bend Road. With him were three juveniles — ages 15, 16 and 17 — and Scotty Harshman, 47.

At some point, Noah started to drown but no one there called for emergency responders, said Detective Sgt. Brad Kunkel. And then they lied to law enforcement at the onset of the investigation, he said.

As a result, authorities may never know the true story of what befell Noah that day. But, Kunkel said, there was no evidence of foul play.

“Any case involving the death of a young person is very difficult,” he said. “And then, over the course of this case, to discover we were fed false information about what happened that day was heartbreaking and very difficult.

“We have had these discussions over the course of the case, trying to get our head around what happened and understand why this happened. It has been a very difficult struggle for everyone involved in this case.”

Noah was reported missing April 8 after he did not come home. Authorities said that on April 10, a witness told investigators information that was inconsistent with what authorities had first heard. Investigators eventually learned Noah had drowned. His body was discovered April 11.

Authorities said they conducted dozens of interviews with juveniles and adults and executed multiple search warrants. They said the investigation was delayed by the false information.

As a result of the investigation, one juvenile faces charges of fifth-degree theft, third-degree criminal mischief, prohibited actions and use of an electronic communication device while driving. Two of the teens face charges of third-degree criminal mischief and fifth-degree theft.

Harshman faces a fifth-degree theft charge. The charge, Kunkel said, relates to some of Noah’s belongings being stolen from the scene.

Iowa law protects the identity of juveniles charged in crimes that are not forcible felonies. Kunkel said he could not speak more about the charges, except that they were “applicable to the situation.”

There is no applicable charge, he said, for not calling 911 or taking other steps to help.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

Sarah Watson of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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