Dad fighting for storm drain safety, two years after son's death

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- It's been two years since Logan Blake died after being pulled into a Cedar Rapids storm drain.

On June 30th of 2014, fast-moving flash flood waters pulled Logan into a storm sewer, killing him. His dad, Mark Blake, said the 17-year-old was reaching for a Frisbee, when he was swept in.

A friend went to help Logan, but the fast water pulled him in too. They traveled more than a mile through the city's sewers, ending up in Cedar Lake. The friend survived.

Mark said time hasn't numbed the pain.

"The people who have lost children for any reason will tell you, it doesn't go away," Mark said.

In the years since the incident, Mark has dedicated a big chunk of his time to preventing something similar from happening again. He's become an advocate, creating Project Storm Drain Safety, last June. With it, he hopes to bring awareness to drain dangers.

"People can underestimate the power of water,” said Dave Wallace, Cedar Rapids’ utility engineering manager. “It only takes a few inches of water to sweep people off their feet."

Wallace said Cedar Rapids has worked with Mark to make local drains safer. The city has upgraded three near elementary schools, including the drain that killed Logan, with fences, signs and grates.

Wallace said two to three more upgrades are in the works, for fiscal year 2017. Right now, he said city officials are figuring out where to put them.

"Look at more of the larger pipes, that travel a long distance,” said Wallace. “Are they close to other schools, parks or places that people might gather?"

For Mark, the next step is taking his message national. Donors gave a SUV to his project. This fall, Mark plans to take the truck and drive it across the country hitting as many states as possible.

"We wanted to wrap it, so it's visual,” said Mark. “So, when we pull up to an event people would notice it."

During the cross-country tour, Mark plans to speak at events, perhaps even on national TV shows.

While all of that seems like a lot, Mark said there's always more to do.

"We don't feel like we've done nearly enough," he said.

Mark is also a blues musician. He's written a couple songs about the incident and Logan, which he performs to raise money for the project. You can also buy a CD with the tracks.

More info can be found at www.projectstormdrainsafety.org.