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Flash flood swept away 2-year-old Kentucky boy in Tennessee

Posted: 2:30 PM, Jun 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-10 17:30:32-04
Sudden flash flood swept away 2-year-old Kentucky boy in Tennessee

Authorities have identified the toddler who was swept away by rising water at Cummins Falls State Park as a 2-year-old Kentucky boy.

Jackson County Emergency Management Agency PIO Derek Woolbright said the body of Steven Pierce, of Eddyville, Kentucky, was found around 7:15 a.m. Monday.

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Emergency crews responded to the state park near Cookeville, Tennessee on Sunday after swift water prompted rescues.

Over an 18-hour period, 64 people had to be rescued after a sudden rush of water made conditions dangerous near the gorge. Fourteen of those were evacuated using a rope.

Pierce and his family were leaving the gorge as the water started to rise. The boy was swept away while they were trying to cross the river. He was being carried at the time, said J.R. Tinch, assistant chief ranger for Tennessee State Parks.

By Monday morning, the search for the missing toddler had become a recovery effort. His body was found just downstream from where he went missing.

"It's unfortunate any time you have any type of fatality. When you have children, it's hard. It's been a tough day for everyone involved," Tinch added.

The park is a popular swimming area, but has a history of sudden flash floods and drownings. Back in 2017, nine people had to be brought to safety. One person in that case died.

Tinch said guests are asked to bring life jackets as a safety precaution. He said life jackets are provided on site, as well.

Once the water began rising on Sunday, Tinch said staff at the base of the falls began evacuating people. He said it only took about two minutes for the water to rise to dangerous levels.

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said they would be reviewing the incident which includes evaluating park policies and procedures to see what can be done to improve visitor safety.

They also released the following statement:

"Tennessee State Parks takes the safety of our visitors very seriously. All of our park rangers are emergency medical responders. Many, including rangers at Cummins Falls, are also trained in swift-water and high-ropes rescue. Partnerships with state and local agencies, such as the utilization of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s helicopter, have also contributed to the safe evacuation of visitors."