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DNR officials encourage drowning prevention education along ‘risky rivers’

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COLUMBUS, Ind. – In the last few years, three people have drowned along a “risky river" in Columbus. Now, officials are asking Hoosiers to be prepared when visiting waterways.

On Saturday morning, the body of 6-year-old Brendan Sperry was recovered after he was swept away by waters and drowned. He was playing on a sandbar in Mill Race Park with family members when the quick current became too much.

His tragic death is hitting the community hard.

"It's so sad when you start out on a normal day and then tragedy with your family. It's sad," said Columbus resident Lara Hodson.

The area where the boy drowned is where the Flatrock River combines with other bodies of water to form the White River. DNR Officials said the waters there can be very strong.

"Any river that you come to that has moving water, you're going to be at risk. That one particular spot right there, it has a little bit stronger current than the average," said Cpt. Bill Browne.

The death of Brendan isn't the first tragedy on what officers consider a "risky" river.

Last March, 33-year-old Jackie Watts drowned in the same body of water while trying to rescue a dog. A few years before that, a kayaker died in swift moving currents after a heavy rain.

"If we get a significant rain, it's going to increase the amount of flow," Cpt. Browne said.

Officials said park goers can still enjoy rivers like this one, but need to be prepared for everything that comes with unpredictable conditions.

According to statistics from the DNR 2017 drowning report, 114 people drowned in Indiana in 2017. Most drowning deaths happen in June and July. The average number of people who die in rivers and creeks in Indiana per year is 17.

DNR officials encourage Hoosiers to Reach, Throw, Row, and Go. For more information, click here to view the 2017 drowning report.

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