KETCHUM — A preliminary investigation by the Grand River Dam Authority police indicates alcohol and excessive speed contributed to the death of a Grove woman and her friend in a 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 hit a docked houseboat in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Grand River Dam Authority spokesman Justin Alberty said Swetnam and Varner were seated in the front of the boat when it rammed into the unoccupied 100-foot-long houseboat.
John Deselms, of Tulsa, was driving the boat, the police report states.
Other passengers were Taylor Perry, of Springdale, Ark.; Eugene DeVerges and Bryce Banham, both of Tulsa; Taylor Reynolds, of Plano, Texas; and Chad Scott, of Perry.
Deselms and Perry were taken to Craig General Hospital in Vinita for treatment, Alberty said.
According to their Facebook pages, Swetnam was a senior and Varner was a junior at the University of Arkansas.
“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.
They will be greatly missed, he said.
In a statement, Varner's family said he was “loved by all who knew him. His beautiful, caring soul made him a selfless and devoted friend, as well as a devoted son and grandson. He and Rachel Swetnam were as close as brother and sister, and their loss is immeasurable.”
Swetnam was Miss Teen Oklahoma 2010 with the National American Miss pageant.
“She was easy going,” said Sandy Palmgren, pageant director. “Her parents did a wonderful job of raising her. She was beautiful inside and out.”
While Miss Teen Oklahoma, Swetnam would wear her crown and sash to community events and preschool classrooms.
“The little kids just loved her,” Palmgren said. “She was like a fairy-tale princesses to them.”
Palmgren said she was in shock when she learned of Swetnam's fatal accident.
“She was just wonderful,” Palmgren said. “You couldn't ask for a better or sweeter person to represent Oklahoma.”
Swetnam's co-workers at Riffraff clothing store in Fayetteville, remembered her beautiful smile, infectious cheer and great sense of humor.
She was a graduate of Cascia Hall in Tulsa.
Headmaster Roger Carter said Swetnam transferred to Cascia Hall from a Tennessee school as a junior in 2009 and graduated the following year.
“It just breaks our heart. Terrific student, great family. ... You would just melt when she would speak to you because she had that Tennessee drawl,” Carter said.
Swetnam was the daughter of Grove surgeon Dr. Jeff Swetnam, said Kristi Wallace, Integris 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 has requested privacy at this time.
CONTRIBUTING: Tulsa World staff writers Tim Stanley and Amanda Bland