Hundreds poured into Hanover, Md.’s Kingdom Builders Church of God in Christ for a somber afternoon funeral service on June 29. Positioned at the front of the church was a pearl white casket holding the body of Walter Dines, a Maryland teen whose life ended thousands of miles away in a frigid Oregon river.

Dines,18, was on the verge of college basketball stardom and reveling in those final weeks before school would begin at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, where he’d earned a full scholarship. Only two weeks after graduating from North County High School in Anne Arundel County, the near straight-A student headed to Oregon where his father lives.

Although he was unable to swim and fearful of large bodies of water, Dines joined friends in a swimming excursion at the Clackamas River, a seemingly placid body of water that has claimed the lives of numerous swimmers, according to local news reports. Dines leapt into the fast-moving body of water on a “dare” from friends and was swept away in a powerful undercurrent as lifeguards and onlookers tried desperately to save him.

Thirty minutes later, rescuers found Dines’ body submerged under 24 feet of icy, 50-degree water.

The teen’s sudden death has stunned the Anne Arundel County community and devastated those high school classmates and teachers closest to him. “Walter was one of my favorite basketball players … He was an outstanding young man,” said Al Pindell, Dines’ basketball coach since his freshman year of high school. “You never caught him with his pants down and his underwear showing. It was always ‘yes,sir’ and ‘no,sir.’”

Pindell went on to praise Dines’ academic prowess as well and said he fared well in “weighted” honors classes. Dines’ North County High School classmate Tahj Sylvia touted the track and basketball enthusiasts’ work ethic on and off the court as well, calling him “one of the strongest and smartest at our school.”

“He was a workaholic. I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he did,” said Sylvia moments before the funeral began. “He was a true example of a high school student and a high school athlete. the right decisions – didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t do anything that would upset his mother or disappoint his mother. He was the perfect child, basically.”

Dines’ death raises awareness about African-Americans historically precarious relationship with water. A recent study conducted by USA Swimming and the University of Memphis found that 70 percent of Black children have low or “no swim ability,” compared to 40 percent of White children.

Bobby Marvin provided on-site reporting for this article.


Kristin Gray

AFRO Managing Editor