Niagara Gazette

July 17, 2013

Newfane soldier drowns while swimming in Texas lake

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A Newfane man stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Hood, Texas, drowned Sunday in a lake near the base.

Private First Class Christopher Kent Heinz, 25, drowned at Stillhouse Hollow Lake in Slado, according to the Fort Hood public affairs office.

According to a report from, Heinz was with nine other soldiers Sunday morning at River’s Bend Park and attempting to swim across a cove when he went under about 50 feet from shore, authorities said.

The other soldiers called 911 after they were unable to find him.

Divers recovered his body from 12 feet of water at around 2:15 p.m. Sunday, according to, and an autopsy was ordered.

Heinz and the other soldiers were set to deploy, authorities said Sunday.

According to a press release from Fort Hood, Heinz entered active-duty service in Jan. 2012 as a combat engineer. He was assigned to Company C, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, in May 2012.

Capt. Daniel G. McKew, who was Heinz's company commander, called him "one of our best," making a "great impact" on the unit despite only being there for a little more than a year.

"He was what you wanted all your soldiers to be like," McKew said in a statement. "If he was presented with a challenge, he worked his tail off to overcome the challenge. He constantly worked to improve himself."

McKew explained that Heinz didn't limit his work to the day, noting Heinz spent "countless" hours at home with correspondence courses and trying to learn his profession, and would come in early for work for extra physical training.

"He took a lot of pride in his job and was extremely determined to be successful," McKew said. "Last time I spoke with him we talked about all his goals in life and in the military. There was not a doubt in my mind that he would achieve all of them."

Heinz's awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.

Heinz graduated from Newfane High School in 2007.

His obituary reports Heinz was an active specialist in the U.S. Army and was currently training for a Sapper leader course. "He enjoyed the military very much. Chris was the life of the party and loved spending time with his friends and family."

Heinz is survived by his wife, Kelli Grembolwitz Heinz, his parents Michael and Linda, a brother, Jack of Lockport and three grandparents and several aunts, uncles and cousins.