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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A Kadena High School guidance counselor died Sunday while snorkeling.

Vicky Langley, 47, a counselor at the school since August 2001, drowned while in the water off Ikei Island, according to Henry Meyer, communications officer for the Okinawa District Office of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

Kadena High School officials are planning a memorial service. For more information, call the school at 634-1216.

Langley was a native of Lafayette, La. Before coming to Kadena she worked at The Sullivans Elementary School in Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

According to Japanese officials, Langley was snorkeling with friends off the Pacific Ocean side of Ikei Island, near the Big Time Resort. She was first reported missing at 1:40 p.m. Sunday.

A Japanese 11th Maritime Safety Agency spokesman said Langley and a male friend reportedly separated from the rest of the group to snorkel outside the reef at 1:30 p.m. After about ten minutes, however, the man realized that the currents and waves were too strong and he swam to the top of the reef for safety.

From there he could stand and look for Langley, but she was not within view and he called 119, the Japanese emergency services telephone number, for help, the Maritime spokesman said.

The 11th Maritime Safety Agency immediately put a helicopter in the air and searched the area for more than two hours before her body was spotted at 4 p.m. floating face down outside the reef about 250 meters from the beach.

A rescuer was lowered into the water; he found she was not breathing and her body was stiffening. Her body was flown to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Naha Air Base and then to nearby Tomishiro Central Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 4:28 p.m.

The water off Ikei Island, a small resort island accessible from Okinawa by a bridge, is known for having strong currents. In July 2002 two sailors drowned while scuba diving after being overcome by water churned up the approach of Typhoon Rammasun.

According to the 18th Weather Flight at Kadena, the island was in Sea Condition Caution at the time, meaning adverse sea conditions had been observed and extreme caution should be exercised when entering the water.

“Only personnel who can accurately assess local conditions should enter the water,” states the guideline for water conditions issued by the military on Okinawa.

There were two other water-related accidents Sunday in Okinawa prefecture. Off Taketomi Island, a small island 255 miles southwest of Okinawa, near Taiwan, a 44-year-old Japanese man from Wakyama prefecture drowned while snorkeling Sunday.

Also, a 32-year-old Okinawa man was in stable condition Monday after his jet ski was swamped by a high wave off Kume Island, about 62 miles west of Okinawa. A passenger, a 35-year-old woman from Saitama prefecture, remains missing, according to police reports.

Ruth Hatcher, principal at Kadena High School, said Langley’s death was a blow to the staff and students of the school.

“You don’t replace someone like her,” Hatcher said. “She had a zest for life and adventure, and we’re going to miss her. The kids are going to miss her and so is the staff.”

She said Langley was counselor for sophomores and juniors last year and was moving up to become a counselor for seniors this year.

“She is survived by her mother, two sons, and two grandchildren,” Hatcher said.

“She was a very effective counselor,” she added. “She implemented a lot of good support programs for the students to help them in their transition.”

Hatcher said Langley started a mentor program at the school where new students would be teamed with students with the same schedule who would “show them the ropes.”

“We’re here for the students,” Hatcher said. “Counselors are here to work through the grief with students, parents and staff. The (Kadena) community is working with us through Kadena’s Family Support and Family Advocacy programs.”

Fred Zimmerman and Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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