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VOL. 40 | NO. 28 | Friday, July 8, 2016

Increase this year in East Tennessee lake drownings

By Colleen Creamer

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The number of drownings in East Tennessee in the past few months – five since May – has alarmed the region’s population as well as local enforcement agencies.

On June 17, 53-year-old Donna Berger and 74-year-old Randy Freeney, both of Soddy Daisy, drowned at Chickamauga Lake near Sale Creek.

Berger and Freeney were part of a larger group of friends and family who were boating on the lake.

The group anchored to go swimming, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). When one of the younger members in the group needed assistance, Berger got into the water to help.

Berger, according to reports, then began to struggle, leading Freeney to enter the water to assist. Freeney then also began to struggle.

Residents of Lee Pike, seeing the problem from shore, called 911 and then got to the group with life vests to try and help.

By that time, it was too late.

Both Berger and Freeney, who were not wearing life vests, were brought to shore. Family members were notified at the scene. Alcohol was not involved.

The Soddy Daisy Fire Department, Hamilton County Fire Department and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency responded around 7:25 p.m.

According to the TWRA, both died at the scene.

On June 21, a 76-year-old Dandridge man jumped into Douglas Lake to help a child. His body was not found until five days later.

John King was on a pontoon boat with several children in the water. One child, who was wearing a life vest, began to struggle and King went to help, according to the TWRA’s Matt Cameron.

King was not wearing a life jacket and never surfaced. All of the children are safe.

On May 29, a 19-year-old man from McMinn County drowned in Tellico Lake in East Tennessee while swimming with friends.

Just before 3 p.m. at Fort Loudoun State Historic Park in Vonore, several agencies responded to an emergency call for a man who had gone under the water and had not resurfaced. Emergency personnel found his body around 5:45 p.m.

According to reports, the man, whose identity has not been released, was “not a strong swimmer” and had ventured far out into the lake.

There was no indication alcohol or drugs were involved. The report stated that it happened at about 4 p.m. on a Saturday in a small rock quarry off Pappys Way in Cocke County.

The day before the drowning at Tellico Lake, Tyler Sisk, 14, drowned in a quarry in East Tennessee.

Sisk’s friend, who was with Sisk, told deputies they decided to walk in water which had accumulated in a small rock quarry. They were walking together in knee-deep water that had no visibility. They both went under when they reached a point in the quarry where there was a precipitous drop they didn’t know about.

Sisk’s friend was able to make it to a shallow part of the water but couldn’t find Sisk. He then ran to a nearby home and called for help.

Paramedics had to dive under the water to recover the boy. EMS responders located Sisk, who was by then unresponsive, in 8-15 feet of water.

County fire fighters and deputies helped in moving Sisk to the bank. Emergency personnel tried to resuscitate the boy as UT Life Star stood by to air lift the victim.

Sisk did not know how to swim, family members say.

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