Park name honors hero who died in attempted rescue

rpulley@lsjournal.comMay 29, 2014 

It was in May, more than three decades ago, that the Lee’s Summit Police Department suffered its only loss of an officer on duty.

That officer was honored by naming a newly planned park on Pryor Road after him.

Charles David Hartman drowned May 1, 1983 while he was attempting to rescue a stranded canoeist who was clinging to a tree surrounded by a raging Blue River near 143rd and Holmes Road.

Charles David Hartman Memorial Park was dedicated in May 1990. Hartman was a member of the Lee’s Summit Underwater Rescue and Recovery unit.

The Journal account from that day said Hartman and others had responded to help two Belton men who had been canoeing in a flooded Blue River and capsized. One man made it to shore, the other was clinging to a tree surrounded by the raging river near 143rd and Holmes Road.

Logs and other debris sped down the swollen river, the water going about 20 miles per hour.

Divers used a “line gun” to shoot a rope to the man who tied it to the tree. Hartman attached a safety harness to that lifeline and began to maneuver himself to the tree. He was wearing diving gear and a tank.

A second officer also entered the river, also using a safety line, and drag from the water on that line pulled him under. The officer investigating the accident said he believed Hartman was attempting to assist that officer when he also was dragged under the water and was hit by an object, maybe a log, which may have dislodged his mouthpiece.

The second officer surfaced and was pulled from the water, while Hartman remained submerged. A third diver, a Kansas City officer, reached Hartman and inflated his life vest. The line was cut, Hartman floated to the surface and downstream, followed by the officer who pulled Hartman and to shore and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Hartman was taken to a hospital by air ambulance where he was pronounced dead.

About 1,000 people attended his funeral.

Posthumously he received the Law Enforcement Award for Distinguished Service from the Lee’s Summit Optimist Club, which had scheduled giving him the award before the accident.

For the dedication, between 1,000 and 2,000 people attended that ceremony that included a ribbon cutting and flyover by a police helicopter.

A Kansas City Star article at that time quoted the officer’s wife, who had since remarried and moved to another state at that time.

She told the reporter that Hartman loved children and knowing children would be using the park would have made him happy.

“It’s heartwarming to see it finished,” she said.

The Lee’s Summit Powder Puff Softball Association initially used the park. Today it is the adult sports complex, with youth sports gathered together at fields in Legacy Park.

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