Grapevine — A birthday celebration turned tragic Saturday when a father of two drowned in Grapevine Lake, disappearing into the water just feet from his friends.
Venkatramreddy Velma, Ph.D., 38, of Irving, known as "Ram," was found in the lake about 3:30 p.m. the next day, according to the Grapevine Fire Department.
A group of friends had rented a pontoon Saturday to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday, said Sashi Chavali, a friend who was on the boat. They decided to swim in the lake, and a few minutes later, Velma went under water and didn't come back up. He was not wearing a life jacket.
"[We were] panicking and yelling his name," Chavali said. "He's one of the strongest swimmers of all of us."
They called 911.
"I did not believe that he was gone," said Kiran Banda, one of Velma's longtime friends. "He's a really great friend. He's the definition of friendship."
Velma is remembered as a devoted husband and father of two, children ages two and seven. Originally from India, the software engineer was active in the group Telangana People's Association of Dallas.
"Every time I saw him I always saw him with the kids. Never alone," Chavali said.
Velma's friends are now surrounding his family in Irving. They say he recently bought a new house and will have a difficult time making ends meet without him.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for his family.
In a separate incident Sunday, a person was taken to a hospital in critical condition after firefighters responded to another report of a drowning at the lake.
Crews were dispatched about noon to the Rockledge Park area on the northeast side of the lake, the Fire Department posted on Twitter.
Crews worked the second drowning of the weekend at Grapevine Lake. At 12:03 crews were dispatched to Rockledge Park for a drowning. The victim was recovered at 12:24 and transported to Baylor Scott and White in critical condition. The victim was not wearing a life jacket.— Grapevine Fire Dept (@GrapevineFireTX) May 13, 2018
That victim, who was not wearing a life jacket, was rescued about 20 minutes later and taken to Baylor Scott and White hospital.