New warning about Duck River Dam dangers after 9-year-old boy swept away

Photo: WKRN

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The nine-year-old boy who drowned this week after being swept underwater near the Duck River Dam is not the first person to lose his life in that area of the river.

On Friday afternoon water levels at the Duck River were the highest they have been in days.

An area connected to the Duck River was walkable on Thursday, but by Friday it was covered in water.

The dam has become a gathering place for big logs that propel into the air, mixed with large pieces of debris.

While there is a warning sign at the river, News 2 wanted to know why swimming is allowed in that dangerous area.

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Scott Brooks explained the situation.

“Part of it would come down to enforcement,” Brooks said. “We don’t have folks stationed 24/7 at most of our dams, so it would require someone to be physically responsible for enforcing a no swimming zone or putting up some kind of physical barriers.”

Rodney Schmiede, a lieutenant with the Bedford County EMS, told News 2 he has worked at least five drownings in that particular area of the river over his 14-year career.

“Two years ago [or] three years ago, we had another nine-year-old that drowned just below the bridge. He and his brother were swimming down there. I was on that body recovery too,” recalled Schmiede. “There have been several drownings in this particular spot.”

Mother of three, Elizabeth Robinson, joined Dreyton Sims’ family and friends almost every day this week as emergency responders searched for the boy’s body.

She said she’s had a conversation with her children about staying away from the Duck River Dam.

“I was telling my children, just last night, especially with what is going on in Cummins [Falls], how quickly the water level can change,” said Robinson. “This comes from Normandy Dam, so as soon as they start letting water out from the dam you have no warning and the water levels rise and the currents get faster.”

The TVA told News 2 that under many of the dams there are generating units that they turn on and off. It can significantly impact water flow.

The TVA manages 49 reservoirs.