9-year-old boy drowns at Pocalla Swamp

Water from lowered Second Mill Pond flowed into swamp in Florence preparations

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A Sumter family is grieving after a child drowned while playing with friends at Pocalla Swamp off Burkett Drive on Wednesday afternoon. 

Reports indicate five boys, ranging in age from 7 to 12, were playing near the swamp when one of the boys, a 9-year-old, entered the water and went under, a news release from Sumter Police Department stated.

The other boys ran to a nearby home where emergency officials were called about 3:15 p.m., saying somebody was in the water at Burkett Drive near the train trestle, said Joey Duggan, Sumter Fire Department battalion chief. 

Stadium Road Station responded with a few boats that were already attached to trucks in preparation for Hurricane Florence, he said.

Firefighters were quick to get a boat in the water, he said, and locate the boy within about 10 minutes.

The boy was rushed to Palmetto Health Tuomey where he soon after died, said Tonyia McGirt, public information officer for the police department. 

No foul play is suspected, she said.

Sumter County Coroner’s Office has scheduled an autopsy, which McGirt said is standard procedure for child deaths.

In addition to the police and fire departments, Sumter County Emergency Medical Services, the Sumter dive team — made up of personnel from local first responder agencies — and the state Department of Natural Resources responded to the call.

Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon said the water level at Second Mill Pond was lowered on Tuesday morning in preparation for Hurricane Florence, meaning water from the dam flowed into Pocalla Swamp, also known as Green Swamp, which can raise levels for that waterway.

Mixon said the spillway gates at Second Mill Dam will remain open to allow water to flow continuously when Hurricane Florence brings rains to the area.