Fatal Accident Summaries|
July 17, 2006
'No Swimming' signs posted at rain-filled pit
By PETE WICKHAM
posted July 19, 2006
The Jackson Sun
CAMDEN - The kids call it "Blue Hole." It's an old gravel pit off Birdsong Road that was dug to 40 feet and abandoned, and rain did the rest.
Signs around the privately owned area shout, "Keep Out!" and "No Swimming!" Kentucky Lake is only five miles away. But when you're a teenager, it's hot and you want a world to yourself - it's a magnet.
"It's pretty, blue water," Benton County Sheriff's Deputy Tiffaney Lagace said. "And the farther down you go, the more disoriented you can get. And it goes straight down to the bottom. No gradual dropoff at all."
So when Hollow-Rock Bruceton Central High School football star Detris Willis started to cramp following an afternoon in the blue water, there was nowhere to go. No place his friends could hang on while working to get him back to the surface. And by the time rescue crews could get to the remote location in the middle of the Camden Gravel pits, the 17-year-old had spent too much time at the bottom of that 40-foot hole.
"It's marked all over the place (as off limits)," Benton County Chief Deputy Bryant Allen, "but kids find back ways in, take down signs. Some of the ways you've got to walk a half-mile to get to there."
Allen said there had been only one other time he'd been called to the abandoned gravel pit for a death. Lagace said that when the call came in Monday, Willis "had been on the bottom for about 30 minutes. We'd been dragging the hole, and were about to send a diver down when we got him up."
She said there were several young people swimming with Willis, a 6-foot-1-inch, 220-pound linebacker-running back for the Tigers.
"They tried to pull him up, but he was just too big," Lagace said. She said there were "plenty of warning signs around that it was private property and that it was a 'No Swimming' area. They had to see them."
Terrance Brown, who runs Camden Gravel, was listed as the property owner on the police report. Brown said Tuesday that his company leases land "up to about 130 feet before the waterline."
He said the property is owned by Billy George Branch of Camden. But Branch said, "I leased that land to the company two years ago. They want to mine the area."