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Park ranger at Little River Falls unsure of how 18-year-old drowned

The 18-year-old was from Jefferson County.

Posted: Jun 12, 2020 4:25 PM
Updated: Jun 15, 2020 9:08 AM

We're learning more about a drowning at Little River Falls in DeKalb County.

A teenager from Jefferson County died Thursday after he was swept over the waterfall in the park. This marks the fourth drowning at the nature preserve this season, which is double what they usually see in a year.

When going out on the water, law enforcement agencies in North Alabama want you to remember if you don't know a body of water, don't get in without supervision and to never go on the water after dark.

"Sometimes it's bad decisions that cause incidents like this and sometimes it's bad luck," said Matt Switzer.

Switzer is the park ranger at Little River Canyon and said what happened Thursday night was very unfortunate. He told WAAY 31 three people were out floating on the river and about 80 feet before a waterfall, two of them started to get out of the water.

An 18-year-old from Jefferson County did not make it out and got swept under the current and over the falls. Search and rescue operations started minutes later, and his body was recovered just after 6:30 Thursday night.

Now, park rangers are trying to figure out what's leading to so many drownings this season.

"Two out of the past three months, we've seen visitation has been 20% higher than normal, whether that's through COVID-19 with more people getting out of the house and as restrictions come up or it's hot weather and people are looking to cool off in the water as well," said Switzer.

Switzer is unsure at this time but wants people to understand the dangers of waterways. He says there's no telling how fast or even how deep water can be and you must be aware of what's going on at all times.

"Water can be dangerous, whether it's barely flowing or whether it's rushing. It's just a matter of the danger you perceive and the levels that you take to protect yourself out here," he said.

Law enforcement agencies say if you do not know anything about a body of water, always call the park ranger or law enforcement if you see that something is wrong.

The identity of the 18-year-old has not yet been released and his body was sent to the DeKalb County Coroner's Office.

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