Three people are dead following weekend drownings in our region. Officials say two of those deaths could be the result of not following swimming rules.
Officials are expecting major crowds out on the lakes this week for the Fourth of July, and after a busy and tragic weekend, they are hoping these fatal drownings are the last they'll have to respond to.
For years Jane Dunsmore and her family have come out to Boone Dam to cool off from the summer's heat, and every year she's notices the same thing: people swimming beyond the neon orange barricade.
"A lot of people, they just don't care. It gets too crowded. They figure they're going to go over that," Dunsmore told News 5 on Monday.
Sullivan County Sheriff's Department officials warn that's dangerous, and in the case of a 16-year-old boy on Saturday, it was deadly. "It's deeper there, not to mention the current's a little bit different, so that's extremely dangerous. The TVA put that rope there for a purpose," said Leslie Earhart, public information officer for the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department.
Just a few miles farther and one day later, another teenager lost his life jumping off a tree hanging over cliffs 90 feet in the air. "When you jump off a cliff that high, it's basically like hitting concrete when you hit the water," Earhart explained.
Even though signs clearly state you cannot jump off the cliffs at Warrior's Path State Park, we discovered many people do not abide by that rule. "We hear about people cliff jumping there quite often, and there are other places around local lakes that people choose to cliff jump," Earhart added.
Even though that adrenaline rush may seem irresistible, officials are encouraging everyone to just follow the rules, especially for teens whom we learned are often the worst offenders. "That's a common thing to think that nothing bad is going to happen to you, but we just want to stress please be safe. Please follow the rules. They are there because there is a danger," said Earhart.
Even if it means losing a little personal space, Dunsmore told News 5, the consequences aren't worth risking. "Rules are meant to be followed. I mean they have them all over so I mean if you don't follow the rules then you got to accept what happens," said Dunsmore.
The Sullivan County Sheriff's Office is also encouraging people to always wear a life jacket when you are out on the lake. Even being submerged for a short period of time in lake water can make it hard for someone to see you and rescue you.
We also found out swimming from shore to shore or island to island is something that should be avoided without a life jacket.
News 5 found out these deaths make three total drownings for Sullivan County this year.
The other weekend drowning occurred in Washington County, Tennessee after a boat capsized in the Nolichucky River.