Chippewa Falls teen who drowned remembered
By: By McLean Bennett, The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Superior Telegram
CHIPPEWA FALLS -- A Chippewa Falls Senior High School student who drowned over the weekend was a top student and a gifted athlete, friends of the teenager said.
Zachary Lato, 16, died Saturday night at St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls after a Chippewa Fire District diver pulled his body out of the Chippewa River. Lato, who would have been a senior in the fall, had been jumping into the river with friends when the accident occurred.
"It's like getting hit by a truck -- you don't expect it to happen," said Tom Pomietlo, Lato's wrestling coach at the high school.
Pomietlo, who also had been one of Lato's teachers, said Lato would have been a captain on the wrestling team next year and had a good chance of making it to state. He also played on the soccer team, Pomietlo said.
Lato also was a top-notch student. Pomietlo said he earned straight As, and Loren Woolever, one of Lato's longtime friends, described Lato as "probably one of the smartest kids in the school."
Woolever, who said he had been friends with Lato since the two were in elementary school, said news of the accident came as a shock for him and others at the school.
Woolever and Pomietlo also said Lato had been well-liked by his classmates and got along well with almost everyone.
"Everybody liked him," Woolever said. "It's going to be a real loss come this fall."
High school office staff deferred interview requests to the district superintendent, Mike Schoch, who could not be reached for comment.
"Nobody could ever replace him," Woolever said. "My life -- it's going to have a piece missing because of him."
A vigil service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Horan Funeral Home in Chippewa Falls. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Notre Dame Church, also in Chippewa Falls.
Lato's obituary appears on Page 4A of today's Leader-Telegram.
-- Copyright (c) 2009, The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services