A Jefferson county beach where a 14-year old drowned last month, reopened to the public today and this isn't the first tragedy at Rockford beach park. Saturday, marks the three-year anniversary of another drowning there.
"Obviously the drowning of my son is something I'll never be able to handle with very much ease,” said Jeff Doss. Doss together with his wife Suzy Doss and close friends held a clean-up along highway 55, in front of the sign remembering their son Scott Jonathan Doss.
"I just hope and pray that no one else will ever have to go through that pain of losing a child,” Doss said.
Three years ago to the day, Scott was killed while swimming at Rockford Beach. In May of this year, another young man, 14-year-old Devon Cotton, also fell prey to the water’s rapids.
Officials closed the area after 14-year-old Devon Cotton drowned in the Big River.
Last week the county has requested the Corps of Engineers have someone review the dam for any changes and mitigate any potential dangers caused by severe flooding. In 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had repairs made to the dam near Rockford Beach Park to keep it from collapsing.
According to a county representative, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined the work performed in 2016 to stabilize the failing mill dam did not sustain damage in the recent high water event and is still providing structural stability as designed.
Signs along the shore warn folks to swim at their own risk. Those who spent the day at the beach are taking that warning to heart.
"We come down, and we look at the water, seen that it was safe enough to get in to," said one swimmer, Donald Brodigan.
Another swimmer, Dustin Ford, advised:
"Keep calm in the water, stay away from the rapids, make sure there are people around you that are watching you."
In an effort to prevent future drownings, the Doss family and supporters, have filed a petition with plans to take their concerns to lawmakers in Jefferson County. The online petition has already garnered more than 10,000 supporters. It says that the “swim at your own risk” signs do not sufficiently warn against the water’s strong current.
"I just hope no one else has to drown before someone wakes up and does something out there," Doss said.
Cotton’s cousin Jeff Watts said opening the park on the same day as his cousin’s funeral was another blow for the family.
“Wow, so this tragedy really doesn't affect anybody's compassion for life. I mean we know it's dangerous everybody knows that now, especially with all of the messages were getting from people who almost lost their uncle and almost lost their brother because it is so dangerous there,” Watts said.
The park will also reopen on the third anniversary of another victim’s drowning. Friends of victim Scott Doss will be commemorating his death by cleaning up the area around a highway named in his honor.
Jefferson County executive Ken Waller closed the park on June 7th, about a week after Cotton vanished under water near a dam.
Waller said he wanted the dam inspected after the historic flooding to figure out if it had changed. Wednesday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported the dam was not damaged and is structurally stable as designed.
But Waller says the water is deceptively dangerous and the timing of the opening is disturbing.
“We are laying a child to rest. We are in the process of Laying child to rest tomorrow. They didn't even have the couth to check with the family of the last victim to say you know this is what we plan on doing at least wait until we buried this one,” Watts said.
Waller says there will be signs posted that say “swim at own risk” tomorrow. He went on to say the County will be considering whether it should post more detailed warning signs.