The drowning of a Lebanon teen on July 7th has opened a debate about fencing off a popular river bluff.
Fifteen-year-old James Davis, Jr died after he jumped into Old Hickory Lake and never resurfaced.
The bluff rises some 20 feet over the water, which in places is 50 feet deep with an unpredictable current. A rope swing is tied to the underside of the bridge over the bluff.
Davis's stepfather Nicholas Coffee said he believes the bluff should be blocked off.
"I don't want any parent to go through what we're going through now, and them even giving an effort to rope it off, that's a start," Coffee said.
Mark Williams agrees. He often boats by the spot and said he worries about the kids jumping or swinging off the bluff.
"When I watch them, it sends goose bumps over me," Williams said.
Williams said his stepdaughter asked if she could swing off the bluff, and he said no. The next day, he said, someone drowned.
"I made her sit down and watch it on the news," Williams said.
The tragedy was more than a news story to Davis's family. They're planning his funeral, which is scheduled for Saturday.
The teen was an honor student at Lebanon High School and active in ROTC, his stepfather said. He was the oldest of three brothers; a young man with a future and a million-dollar smile. He considered following his stepfather into a military career, or studying culinary arts.
"He was very, very intelligent. He had a whole lot of ideas that he wanted to do," Coffee said.
Coffee isn't the only one who thinks more needs to be done to keep swimmers away from the bluff.
Michael Lauraine, who fishes in the area, said he's seen kids do all kinds of risky stunts from the rope swing. He said they try to see how many times they can flip before they hit the water, an attempt that sometimes ends in a belly-flop.
"I think it should be fenced off with a cyclone fence," Lauraine said.
The Army Corps of Engineers said fencing off the area isn't as easy as it sounds. There are environmental concerns, a spokesman said, and it's a matter of resources. There are thousands of miles of shoreline in Tennessee alone. The Corps says it's working with the county and state and try to find a solution.
The funeral for James Davis, Jr, is 1 PM at J. C. Hellum, 107 Stokes St., Lebanon.
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