South Carolina

Drowned 20-year-old is latest victim in one of SC’s deadliest lakes, coroner says

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A 20-year-old South Carolina man recently died swimming in one of the state’s deadliest bodies of water, prompting the Oconee County coroner to release information on all of the area’s drowning victims.

On Wednesday, Coroner Karl Addis confirmed 20 people have died while swimming in the Fall Creek Landing area of Lake Keowee during his time in office.

Jose Adrian Ramirez drowned Sunday, Addis said in a news release.

The Greer resident was swimming near the main boat landing in Fall Creek when he began to struggle and disappeared, according to the news release.

Rescuers found Ramirez’s body in 25-foot-deep water, about 50 feet from shore, close to 45 minutes after a 911 call, Addis said.

His death was called an accident by the coroner, who said it was the third drowning reported in the Salem-area landing this year.

On July 2, a 27-year-old Greenville man drowned while swimming after a water bottle in an area of Lake Keowee known as “The Rock,” The State reported.

A 19-year-old drowned while swimming with friends in the same area on April 29, The State reported.

Only men have died while swimming in the Fall Creek Landing area since Addis took office in 1993, according to data he released Wednesday.

The first death, recorded on Aug. 4, 1997, was a 17-year-old, Addis said. In the decades since, 19 of the 20 deaths have been determined to be drownings, according to the data.

One death was because of complications from a previous injury when the 19-year-old jumped into the lake at the spot known as “The Rock,” Addis reported.

That’s a section of the popular swimming and boating area that features a rock outcropping used for jumping in the lake, the Greenville News reported.

Seven of those who died were teenagers, and eight others were 27 or younger, according to the data.

Drinking and substance abuse have been a factor in many of the deaths, according to Addis. He said alcohol was found in seven of the deaths, while drugs were reported in eight cases.

“Fall Creek, located on upper Lake Keowee near Salem, is a beautiful and a very popular area of Oconee County. The Oconee County Coroner’s Office encourages individuals who visit Fall Creek for swimming, boating, or jumping from “The Rock”, to please use good judgment and place safety first for themselves, their family and friends,” Addis said in a news release. “Do not swim alone; if swimming capabilities are limited, the use of a personal flotation device is strongly advised.”

More deaths have been reported on Lake Keowee beyond the 20 in the Fall Creek Landing area. A 63-year-old Easley man drowned while swimming in the lake during a boating trip in July, The State reported.

With summer approaching and weather warming, it's time to keep these water safety tips in mind, as provided by the Placer County Sheriff's Office.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.
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