Teen recounts moments that led to friend’s drowning in Lake Georgetown

A photo of 16-year-old Nathan Ellis. Courtesy the Ellis Family.
A photo of 16-year-old Nathan Ellis. Courtesy the Ellis Family.

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — At a home just outside of the city of Leander, family and friends of 16-year-old Nathan Ellis gathered Sunday to share memories of him. Days earlier on the Fourth of July, Ellis drowned at Lake Georgetown.

Georgetown police said Ellis had been swimming with two other swimmers near the boat ramp on the south side of the lake just before 12:30 p.m. Police said that Nathan began to struggle at the halfway point and went under the water.

Andy Cato, 18, was with the church youth group who went swimming with Ellis that day. Cato and Ellis were friends and they decided to swim across the lake together. Cato recalled that he thought about turning around and going back to shore when he realized something wasn’t right.

The family of 16-year-old Nathan Ellis (far left) . Photo Courtesy Ellis Family.
The family of 16-year-old Nathan Ellis (far left) . Photo Courtesy Ellis Family.

“He yelled something at me. That’s when I realized he was sinking,” Cato said, fighting back tears. “And he came over to me, and he kind of grabbed onto me and we went under a couple times, and after that we got separated. I’d swallowed a bunch of water so when I came up I was struggling to tread water because I’m not really that great of a swimmer myself. I remember looking back but I saw him face down in the water. But I just couldn’t get to him, and I just wish I could have done more.”

Cato was pushed ashore by an adult who saw him struggling. “I barely managed to get back, I went under several times on the way there, and I swallowed a lot of water,” Cato said. After getting out of the water, Cato was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

“I have been blaming myself a lot, actually, the day after, after it happened, I went over [to Ellis’ house] and talked to his parents. In a way, I wanted them to blame me. I wanted it to be my fault,” Cato said. “But they didn’t blame me for anything.”

“There are all kinds of ways I could blame myself, he could blame himself, the people who were here could blame themselves. But our feeling — our deep feeling — is this the time the Lord chose to take him? And we’re OK with that,” said Michelle Ellis, Ellis’ mother.

Michelle clarified, the grief has been weighing on her family and keeping her up at night, but her family’s faith has eased some of the pain.

“That is the hardest thing I’ve gone through,” said C.B. Ellis of Nathan’s death. “Yesterday I sat with him for about 45 minutes and about 30 of those minutes I held his hand.”

Ellis’ parents explained while he was home schooled, he was also involved with a co-op he attended several days each week. They said he was a licensed irrigator, that he enjoyed climbing trees and he loved going to church.

“It’s kind of hard for me to accept at the moment, but what I’ve come to realize is that it was part of a plan,” said Cato.

Ellis’ family and friends say he will be deeply missed. They encourage anyone who knew him to share memories and photos on the following page: www.NathanEllisMemorial.com

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