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Jackson man drowns during July 4th fireworks

Jackson Fire Department personnel searching the lake around 10:30 p.m. last night, when the park was declared a crime scene. Photo by Jay Forness

A 58-year-old Jackson man drowned after going into Jackson City Park’s Rotary Lake during the July 4th firework show Sunday night. The man’s body was recovered around 1:30 a.m. Monday morning.

“We have no explanation for why he was in the water,” Jackson Fire Department Captain Robert Greif said. “We are not expecting any foul play and we cannot say if it was intentional. It’s still unknown why he was in the water.”

The individual left behind a dog and personal belongings at a picnic table near the lake. “I’m under the impression that for whatever reason he went into the water, he was planning on getting out of the water to take care of his dog and his possessions,” Greif said.

The Jackson Police Department was notified about the missing individual at 9:40 p.m., shortly after the firework show started.

“During the fireworks display, we were notified by Jackson Police Department that a gentleman for unknown reasons entered into the water, made it out about 40 feet, submerged and never resurfaced,” Greif said

Two Jackson Fire Department engine companies were on the scene near the park’s tennis courts as standby during the Independence Day firework display. Greif said they were able to send first responders immediately to the lake to begin search operations.

“We just ran down the hill and went right in the water,” Greif said. “It’s unusual for us to be right there when this happens.”

Greif said Firefighter Justin Angle entered into the water as a rescue swimmer within seven minutes of the notification and began swimming grid searches. During those seven minutes, the Jackson Police Department secured the scene and gathered information from witnesses about the man’s last known location.

The reporting parties were able to give Angle a triangulated location to start searching for the man. Soon after, a boat with two additional crewman was sent into the water, along with Greif as a second rescue swimmer.

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department assisted and sent a crew of six, an additional boat and a rescue diver on standby to the scene. “Cape Fire brought a boat with sonar on it, and we sonared the whole bottom of the lake looking for the victim,” Greif said. “We started using a specialty device after that, and we were able to locate the victim and remove him out of the water at 1:30 a.m.”

The individual was pronounced deceased. The cause of death is pending lab results and the incident remains under investigation. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine his cause of death and his next of kin have been notified.

“I feel sorry for the gentleman who lost his life, especially on the Fourth of July,” Greif said. The identity of the victim will be released at a later time.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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