A warning is planned to be added to docks on Cheatham Lake after a Springfield man died while swimming near one of them on Memorial Day.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the Cheatham Dam, plans to add a stencil in the next few weeks stating “No fishing or swimming allowed” on the popular courtesy docks, including the one where the incident took place, Corps spokesperson Lee Roberts said.
While swimming is permitted at one’s own risk in other nearby areas, the Corps has rules against swimming near launching sites and public docks, Roberts said in an email.
“The reason this rule is in place is to ensure swimmers are not in areas that typically have a higher concentration of vessel traffic,” he said.
The Corps posts signs and stencils with those restrictions either near or on boat ramps and docks, Roberts said.
On Memorial Day, 18-year-old Marvin Morales dove off a dock into the Cumberland River and didn’t resurface. That section of the river has a particularly strong current, Cheatham County EMS director Danny Schaeffer said.
Morales’ body was discovered the following day. It’s suspected that he died from drowning but his body will undergo a formal autopsy, Schaeffer said.
“In this case, the dock was stenciled with the text ‘Loading and Unloading of Boats Only,’ ” Roberts said.
That will soon be amended to include an additional restriction against swimming and fishing.
Roberts recommends swimmers and those near the water wear life jackets, that those getting in the water be aware of their swimming abilities and adherence to signs and buoys.
“By providing time to be rescued, it will help ensure you survive an unexpected fall into the water,” he said. “It is never too late to take swimming lessons and learn to swim well. Staying within the buoys marking designated swim areas is the safest place to swim, especially where rescue equipment or life guards are located. Eighty percent of those who drown while swimming are outside of a designated swim area.”