KETCHUM – A preliminary investigation by the Grand River Dam Authority police suggest alcohol and excessive speed contributed to the death of a Grove woman and her friend in a May 14 Grand Lake boating accident.
Rachel Nicole Swetnam, 21, of Grove and William "Trey" Lewis Varner III, 21, of Texarkana, Ark., died when the boat in which they were passengers struck a docked houseboat in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake around 5:30 p.m.
“There are indications that alcohol and speed are some of the contributing factors,” said Justin Alberty, GRDA spokesman.
Swetnam and Varner were seated in the front of the boat when it collided with an unoccupied 100-foot long houseboat, Alberty continued.
According to the GRDA report, John Deselms, of Tulsa, was driving the boat.
Other passengers in the accident were Taylor Perry, of Springdale, Ark., Eugene DeVerges and Bryce Banham, both of Tulsa, Taylor Reynolds, of Plano, Texas, and Chad Scott, of Perry, Okla.
Deselms and Perry were transported to Craig General Hospital in Vinita for treatment, Alberty said.
Swetnam is the youngest daughter of a Grove surgeon, Dr. Jeff Swetnam, said Kristi Wallace, INTEGRIS Grove General Hospital marketing representative.
“We’re like a family here at INTEGRIS, and we take this loss very personally,” Wallace said. “No parent should ever lose a child. There can be no greater pain. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Swetnam, his wife Janet and their daughter, Sarah.”
Wallace said the Swetnam family is not granting interview requests and has requested privacy at this time.
Swetnam was Miss Teen Oklahoma in 2010 with the National American Miss pageant.
“She was easygoing,” said Sandy Palmgren, pageant director. “Her parents did a wonderful job of raising her. She was beautiful inside and out.”
As Miss Teen Oklahoma, Palmgren said, Swetnam would wear her crown and her sash at community events and visit preschool classrooms.
“The little kids just loved her,” she said. “She was like a fairytale princesses to them.”
Palmgren said she was in shock when she learned of Swetnam’s death.
“She was just wonderful,” Palmgren said. “You couldn’t ask for a better or sweeter person to represent Oklahoma. She was like a daughter to me.”
Palmgren said the pageant community plans to remember Swetnam next month at the yearly pageant.
Co-workers at Riffraff, a Fayetteville, Ark., clothing store, remembered Swetnam for her beautiful smile, infectious cheer and great sense of humor.
According to their Facebook pages, Swetnam was a senior and Varner was a junior at the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville.
“We are keeping the families and friends of these students in our hearts during this difficult time and express our deepest condolences,” said Danny Pugh, University of Arkansas dean of students.
These students will be greatly missed, he said
Swetnam was also a graduate of Cascia Hall in Tulsa.
According to KJRH in Tulsa, visitation for Swetnam is at 8:30 a.m, May 18, followed by funeral services at 10 a.m. at Christ the King Church, located at 1520 S. Rockford in Tulsa.