Kentucky

Water got ‘out of control’ at Tennessee state park. Kentucky toddler found dead.

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Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water prevalent along our coastal beaches. If caught in a rip current, don't fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and then swim back to land at an angle.

The body of a Western Kentucky toddler was found Monday at a Tennessee state park after he was swept away by flooding Sunday, according to emergency management officers.

The boy, identified Monday as 2-year-old Steven James Pierce, of Eddyville, was with his parents Sunday night when he was carried away at Cummins Falls State Park near Cookeville where a river swelled from rain and grew dangerous, according to Jackson County Emergency Management. The boy’s parents, who were trying to cross the river, also had to be rescued.

Steven was being carried and he was not wearing a life jacket, said J.R. Tinch, assistant chief ranger for the Tennessee State Parks agency.

Crews searched for the toddler Sunday and resumed their search at 6 a.m. Monday, according to Tinch. Steven’s body was found about 7:15 a.m. not far from where he was swept away, Tinch said.

More than two-dozen agencies assisted in the search for Steven, according to Derek Woolbright, Jackson County (Tenn.) Emergency Management public information officer.

In about 18 hours Sunday and Monday, a total of 64 people were evacuated from Cummins Falls due to high water, Woolbright said. Thirteen of them were rescued by swift water teams, according to Woolbright.

Around 0.9 inches of rain fell in the Cummins Falls area in a 24-hour period that began at 9 a.m. Sunday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Brittany Whitehead. The area usually needs more rain for flooding to occur, but Whitehead said previous rains likely contributed to the high water.

The park was closed Friday and Saturday because of flooding but reopened Sunday when the water receded, according to the Herald-Citizen.

It took minutes for the water levels to get dangerous Sunday, Tinch said. “The water rises incredibly fast down there,” Tinch said in a Monday morning news conference.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office told WCYB the water at Cummins Falls got “out of control” Sunday.

The park has free life jackets available for visitors to use, according to Tinch.

Funeral services for Steven will be conducted at 11 a.m. Friday at Lakeland Funeral Home in Eddyville. Visitation is from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.

It’s not the first time a person died at Cummins Falls after flooding.

A 73-year-old woman died after she was swept away in a flash flood in 2017, The Tennessean reported. About 3 inches of rain had fallen in a short period; 48 people were rescued, park manager Ray Cutcher told WATE 6.

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