West Point Lake drowning victims identified

Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Two 12-year-old children who drowned at Earl Cook Beach Sunday have been identified as Carson Woodall and A’jada McGuire.

Sgt. Stewart Smith confirmed the identities of the children on Tuesday afternoon. Both were from the Atlanta area, and according to the Troup County Sheriff’s Department, they were in town for a family reunion at West Point Lake.

The children were believed be playing outside of the swimming buoy line when they fell into the water and did not resurface. According to a press release from the sheriff’s office, several witnesses reported seeing the children going under water around 4:17 p.m.

Troup County Sheriff’s Office investigators and dive team members, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the LaGrange Police Department worked together to locate the children. The victims’ bodies were recovered by divers around 7:30 p.m. Both were deceased.

While drowning deaths are relatively uncommon in West Point Lake compared to other state lakes, officials said that individuals and families should always take precautions when swimming. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers noted that while designated swimming areas are closely monitored, other parts of the lake frequently have sudden drop offs where the lake quickly becomes much deeper.

“From the buoy line up to the beach, we ensure as much as possible that it is a gradual decline and that there are no holes or obstructions or broken bottles or things like that, but outside the buoy line we don’t control (the terrain),” said Steve Logan, operations manager for the US Army Corps of Engineers. “It probably drops off just like any other location on the lake. We have the swimming buoy line for protection.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does have a lifejacket loaner program in place at several of its parks including Earl Cook Beach in order to encourage visitors to wear lifejackets, but the corps reported that all of the lifejackets were in use on Sunday afternoon. The corps strongly urges anyone swimming at the lake to wear a lifejacket and stay within marked swimming areas.

“Wear a life jacket whether you are inside or outside the buoyed area,” said Pat Robbins, legislative affairs chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that 0-4 people drown in West Point Lake during any given year, and that there have been over 100 deaths in the lake since it was created in the 1970s.

The corps and the sheriff’s department both extended their sympathy to the families of the children for their loss.