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Tragedy in the Water

Posted Aug 03 2010 6:35pm
By, Vanessa
OurHealth Staff Writer

It's not too late to take the OurHealth challenge and learn how to swim. It's not just about recreation. It can actually be about life and death.

My husband thinks the parents should face criminal charges. He said that adults who can't swim should not take their kids, who also can't swim, near the water. I don't know if I agree, but this is truly a tragedy.

What do you think?

6 Teens Drown in Louisiana's Red River

Lisa Flam and Lauren Frayer
AOL News
(Aug. 3) -- With one life jacket among them, six teenagers who couldn't swim drowned in Louisiana's Red River when they waded off a sandbar and into water that dropped to 30 feet deep, leaving two families wailing and screaming in horror. A seventh teenager was pulled out alive.

The victims, ages 13 to 18, were wading in water 3 feet deep near a sandy beach along the Red River in the Charles and Marie Hamel Memorial Park in Shreveport on Monday evening when they ventured into an unfamiliar area and entered water that suddenly got 20 to 30 feet deeper, Assistant Fire Chief Fred Sanders in an interview today.

"The terrain of the river is unstable," Sanders told AOL News. "They were on a beachy, sandy area with a steep drop-off."
The teenagers were part of a large group of about 20 young people who had been enjoying a day at the river to swim and barbecue, Marilyn Robinson told The Times of Shreveport.

"None of us could swim," said Robinson, 38. "They were yelling 'Help me! Help me! Somebody please help me!' It was nothing I could do but watch them drown one by one."

Friends and relatives of the six, including the two mothers, were wailing, crying and screaming as the children went under the water, said Sanders, who was there. "They were just starting the grief cycle," he said. "Quite naturally, they were upset and hysterical."

Fire Chief Brian Crawford told the Shreveport newspaper that after one child went into an unfamiliar area, others followed. "And once one started toppling into that sinkhole grabbing ahold of another, trying to save another, eventually seven were pulled into the hole," he said. They had one life jacket among them.

Sanders said the domino effect is a possibility. "We're not sure if when one went in and grabbed another trying to save themselves or if others actually went in when they saw their friends and family go in and try to save them, not considering that they could drown because they couldn't swim."

Hearing the families screaming, other people in the park rescued a 14-year-old boy, who did not need to go to the hospital, Sanders said.

Crawford and Sanders say it's the worst accident they've seen.

"We've had drownings before but never to this magnitude where six teenage children drown at the same time," Sanders said today. "The day will be etched in the minds of many of us here in Shreveport."

"Unfortunately, I'm afraid, and it's with a heavy heart, to report that we have pulled so far [six] bodies from the river. ... I can honestly say that in my 26 years of service I've never seen anything of this magnitude. And I hope I never see it again," he told the paper. "It's truly catastrophic and I can only imagine the effect it has on the families."

Authorities said three brothers from one family drowned and two brothers and a sister from another drowned. The victims were identified as Takeitha Warner, 13, and her brothers, JaMarcus Warner, 14, and JaTavious Warner, 17. The rescued teen was their cousin, D.J. Warner.

Also killed were the Stewart brothers: 18-year-old Litrelle, 17-year-old LaDairus and 15-year-old Latevin.

The Fire Department got a 911 call at 6:33 p.m. but the caller gave an imprecise location, Sanders said. Other units that responded from a different direction were flagged down by the families and arrived at 6:40 p.m. but did not see anybody in the water. Divers recovered the first body at 7:51 p.m., the final one just after 10 p.m.

The bodies were found at the bottom of the river, Crawford told reporters today, at depths of 20 to 28 feet. They were within 20 to 30 feet of each other, he said.

Louise Edwards said it was hard to stand by and watch helplessly.

"Some people tried to jump in, but they were already gone," she told The Times, tears rolling down her cheek. "It's like a nightmare. Lord please help us, please."

This is a terrible situation. When I read about the family members, I got a Sims-like image in my head. I wonder if the family would ever even attempt swimming lessons, now.
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