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Boating accident that killed Spotsylvania County sheriff's deputy caused by big wake at Lake Anna

 Spotsylvania sheriff's Deputy Dean Ridings was killed in a boating accident on Lake Anna Saturday while on marine patrol. His patrol car is on the Spotsylvania Courthouse lawn and is becoming a memorial to Ridings.
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Date published: 6/21/2010


The accident on Lake Anna that killed Spotsylvania County sheriff's Deputy Dean Ridings on Saturday was caused by a large wake hitting the officer's 19-foot patrol boat.

The wake or series of wakes sent the 1994 Invader outboard boat sideways, causing Ridings to hit his head and knocking him unconscious. Ridings remained on the boat, which didn't capsize, after the accident.

The 52-year-old part-time deputy was rushed to Mary Washington Hospital by ambulance but died about 2 p.m., less than two hours after the accident.

The force of the wake hitting the boat ejected the operator, Spotsyl- vania sheriff's deputy William Schroeder Jr. Other boaters got Schroeder out of the water and brought him back to the patrol boat.

Schroeder, who suffered only bruises from the accident, then drove the boat with Ridings onboard back to Lake Anna State Park and the waiting ambulances. The accident wasn't far from shore.

A teary-eyed Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith, flanked by some of his command staff, announced those details at a morning news conference yesterday in front of the department's headquarters. The building was draped with black cloth, as was a patrol car used by Ridings parked out front. Flags flew at half-staff.

Though the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is still investigating, Smith said no charges are expected. He said that Lake Anna was crowded with boaters Saturday, but that there weren't any violations that led to the accident. He thanked the boaters who helped the deputies, as well as the hospital and the agencies that assisted.

The Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office has been doing marine patrol on Lake Anna for more than 20 years, and Ridings was the first fatality.

He was the first Spotsylvania sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty since 1988, when Richard Lee Samuels died at the age of 46 after suffering a heart attack chasing a prisoner who had broken free from the courthouse.

Ridings, whose two sons are both sheriff's deputies in Spotsylvania, had been with the Sheriff's Office since 2004. Schroeder has been there since 1991.

Both deputies had been working on the boat for some time and had been certified by the U.S. Coast Guard for boating safety. The patrol boat met all Coast Guard-required safety measures for a vessel of its size.

Ridings' colleagues described him as a hardworking family man who loved being on the lake. He was in the Marine Corps from 1976 to 1983 and was a decorated sheriff's deputy.

"He was one of the nicest gentlemen I've ever met," said Spotsylvania sheriff's Sgt. Chris Taylor, who worked closely with Ridings and his two sons, 28-year-old Gordon and 24-year-old Nicholas. "He was a great asset to this department."

Funeral arrangements were incomplete yesterday.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com

Members of the public are invited to leave flowers and cards on a patrol car used by Deputy Ridings, which is now parked in front of the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office.

A floral wreath was there yesterday, and it had a ribbon inscribed with Ridings' unit number, 390, and the words "We will miss you."

People can also mail expressions of sympathy to the Sheriff's Office in care of Deputy Dean Ridings at Box 124; Spotsylvania, Va. 22553.