Lexington man drowns in tributary of Kentucky River in Garrard

A Lexington man drowned Wednesday night while swimming in a tributary of the Kentucky River, Garrard County Coroner Daryl Hodge said.

Charles Martin, 42, an employee of Cheapside Bar & Grill in downtown Lexington, was pronounced dead at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday after he was pulled from the water near the northern Garrard County community of Buckeye, Hodge said.

Martin and three other people were at the spot where Ky. 39 ends at the confluence of the river and Paint Lick Creek. Martin and a woman were swimming, and two non-swimmers remained on land, Hodge said.

Martin was swimming across the creek when he “started hollering for help,” Hodge said. “They thought he was kidding, and he hollered for help a second time.” A companion went into the water to bring him back to shore, which she accomplished after a struggle and after a rope was thrown to her by the people on shore.

The others attempted to revive Martin, then put him in a Jeep and headed south toward Lancaster to get a cellphone signal and call 911. Emergency medical workers met the vehicle on Ky. 39 near Jack Black Road but were unable to revive Martin, Hodge said. Ky. 39 was closed to traffic for several hours, he said.

An autopsy Thursday at the state medical examiner’s office in Frankfort confirmed that Martin drowned, Hodge said. Alcohol is thought to have been involved, but it will take several days for toxicology results to get back, he said.

Martin was a lunch cook at Cheapside, owner Aaron Sheets said.

“I worked elbow to elbow with him for about eight years, almost nine,” Sheets said. “In general, he was probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. He was always here, always on time. Just as fast as could be. Just a model employee. You couldn’t ask for anybody better.”

Martin enjoyed poker, fantasy football and watching sports.

“Going swimming was really going out of his comfort zone a little bit,” Sheets said. “I’d give anything to have him back.”