Drowning victims' families want lake reevaluated - FOX Carolina 21

Drowning victims' families want lake reevaluated

Posted: Updated: Aug 8, 2012 07:08 AM
Investigators use boats to search Lake Hartwell for a missing swimmer. (Aug. 6, 2012/FOX Carolina) Investigators use boats to search Lake Hartwell for a missing swimmer. (Aug. 6, 2012/FOX Carolina)
ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Back in May, 33-year-old Elio Segura drowned while swimming with his family in Lake Hartwell at the Singing Pines Recreation Area in Anderson County.

And on July Fourth, another swimmer, 33-year-old Crystal Lester, drowned at Singing Pines. On Monday a deputy coroner reported a third drowning in the same area.

The body was identified as 47-year-old James McClain. Investigators said he was trying to get a toy for his grandson.

"We've heard that there have been multiple deaths out there at Singing Pines and we're just hoping that we can try and get it closed down," Jerica Brown said.

Brown is Lester's daughter. On Tuesday, she said she and her family want the Army Corps of Engineers to reevaluate the lake.

"I would really appreciate if they either closed it down, or fixed it to the point where they know the different levels and know the how the lake runs," Brown said.

Greg Lucas knows a lot about Lake Hartwell. He's a conservation educator with the Department of Natural Resources. He said Lake Hartwell is a man-made lake, built back in the 60s.

"You had river, valleys, you had high areas and low areas. All these areas were filled up with water. You have much more shallow swimming areas when the lake is up in its normal boundaries, whereas when the lake goes far down you start to have more of a drop off," Lucas said.

He said DNR agents patrol the lake, but they don't maintain it. Lucas said that's what the Army Corps of Engineers does.

Lucas said Lake Hartwell is an open lake with no lifeguards, and swimmers swim at their own risk. He said because levels change so often it's important for swimmers to be careful.

"You can step into some areas that drop off really quickly, plus they're very mucky," Lucas said.

McClain's family members said in an unfortunate irony, McClain was at Singing Pines on July 4, stood on the shore and prayed for Lester when her body was pulled from the lake. And now the Lester family said they will do the same and pray for the McClains.

"I really appreciate the fact that he was out there praying for my mom," Brown said.

DNR agents are encouraging all swimmers to wear life jackets while at the lake. FOX Carolina tried to contact the Army Corps of Engineers, but did not hear from anyone as of Tuesday night.

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