Edinburgh dam may get signs after teen drownings

Edinburgh dam (WISH Photo/Chopper 8)
Edinburgh dam (WISH Photo/Chopper 8)

EDINBURGH, Ind. (WISH) – Six weeks after a swimming incident left two Franklin boys dead and a girl in the hospital, Edinburgh officials are taking steps to prevent something like that from happening again.

Their idea is new signage along the Big Blue River, warning swimmers and fisherman of the dangers near the dam. Leaders in Edinburgh hope new signs will urge people to be careful when in and around the water.

Bob Jessie owns the bait shop in Edinburgh.

“I deal with it day to day and some days I do a little better than others,” Jessie said.

He was there on June 6 when four teen boys jumped over the dam after Sarah McLevish fell over it. Jessie quickly reacted to help the teens.

“It was one of the scariest times I’ve ever had to deal with and I think it’s changed me a little bit. I think anything like that would change somebody,” Jessie said.

The tragedy has also impacted how people approach the Big Blue River.

“Any time there is flood waters, it doesn’t matter where the river is at, whether there is a dam there or not, it’s a dangerous thing for any one to be in,” Edinburgh Utilities Director and Councilman John Drybread said.

“After that we talked about what we could do to warn people or just give them a heads up,” Drybread said.

He and other Edinburgh leaders say increased signage will be the first step. Currently, there are no warning signs along the river.

“We have no jurisdiction over the river, it’s a public water way, but we thought at least minimum we could do that,” Drybread said.

24-hour reminders along the shore, much like the memorial items for Michael Chadbourne and Jason Moran, who lost their lives after the June 6 swimming accident.

For Jessie, who overlooks people on the river each and every day, he’s supportive of the idea.

“In fact, I would contribute to the cost of that if that’s something that they would decide to do,” Jessie said.

“It won’t take long once we make the decision, but there are some things to consider so we just want to make sure we do it right,” Drybread said.

In the meantime, Jessie says he’s seen local police officers keeping an eye on those enjoying the river since the drowning.

Some people have asked about the dam being removed. Town leaders say removing the dam would cost at least $500,000.

It was built in 1884 to power a grist mill, but does not currently serve much of a purpose.

News 18’s sister station WISH-TV did speak with the mother of one of the survivors of the June 6 drowning. Deb Brown-Nally said the signs would not ease her family’s pain or grief, but it is needed. She hopes it will prevent others from having to go through something so difficult.

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