Father dies while fishing in Ridgeland creek

rlurye@islandpacket.comMay 29, 2014 

STOCK

A Ridgeland man died while fishing with his son in a Ridgeland creek Wednesday afternoon, despite a rescue attempt by Hardeeville's police chief.

Jessie Wilson, 60, was fishing along Smiths Crossing across the creek from his teenage son, when they lost sight of each other, according to interim Hardeeville Police Chief Sam Woodward.

Woodward was driving across one of the Smiths Crossing bridges when the son flagged him down and asked for help.

Woodward called for EMS and then ran to the creek to look for Wilson. After three or four dives into the water, which was over his head, he found the 60-year-old man submerged and tangled in tree limbs.

Woodward said he pulled Wilson loose and brought him to the bank just as emergency workers were jumping the bridge railing to get to the creek. They performed CPR and took Wilson to Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 7 p.m., Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls said.

Sauls said an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

It's not clear how long Wilson was underwater, Woodward said. The son told the chief he tried to flag down several other cars, but they did not stop.

Woodward said he wished he had driven by the creek sooner. If he had, things might have ended differently.

"I just hate it for the child. I really do," he said. "My prayer goes out to the child and his family."

The area, just past the Jasper County Recycling Center, is a popular fishing spot in Ridgeland, Woodward said. He sees people fishing there, in the Great Swamp area, every day at this time of year. People should wear life vests if they cannot swim, regardless of the waters' depth, he said.

"Anything could happen," Woodward said.

Swamps hold other dangers as well.

After Wilson's ambulance left, a firefighter told Woodward he saw an alligator near where the chief jumped in. Woodward said he didn't notice the gator and wouldn't have stopped if he had.

"I didn't have any time to think about anything other than getting this guy out of the water," Woodward said. "That mode just took over."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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