JEFFERSON COUNTY, MO. - The death of 14-year-old drowning victim Devon Cotton at Rockford Beach Park is raising questions about the dangers of swimming there.
Cotton’s father, Carlos Cotton, is trying to prevent others from dying, even as visitors continue to swim near the area where his son died last Wednesday.
“We are petitioning for this park to be shut down for good. For good,” said the bereft father.
Cotton vanished as he was swimming in the Big River above a dam. It is an area that Missouri State Highway Patrol Corporal Juston Wheetley says even experienced swimmers have trouble.
“This is extremely dangerous. We do not recommend at all swimming anywhere near a low-head dam, and that is what this is referred to,” Wheetley said.
The only sign states “swim at own risk” and provides no warning of the strong current or the undertow.
But according to J. Justin Meehan, an attorney who litigates personal injury cases, the state most likely has no legal obligation to do much because of legal immunity government agencies have from liability in many cases.
“On top of that, there of been other cases very similar to this arguing that there is a public duty doctrine," He said, "it doesn't apply to individuals.”
We spoke with county councilman Jim Terry who says he would support additional signs warning people of the danger. Terry says he has fond memories of taking his grandson to swim at the Park.
We also contacted county executive Ken Waller about what action Jefferson County may take, if any, Waller tells us he will have an answer in the next day or so.
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