NEW ORLEANS -- It’s been two days since 17-year-old Shone Badon’s drowning in Lake Pontchartrain lead to his death.
"I seen one air bubble go up. I thought he was playing. I went under. I couldn't find him,” recalls Tara Pledger.
The second drowning death in six weeks is a caution about the water that Pledger says she experienced first hand.
“It is scary, I mean there are some spots where it just drops,” Pledger noted.
That’s why the University of New Orleans has closed the entire Pontchartrain Beach, while it takes time to better understand the dangers in the water and how the area can be safer.
“Our understanding is that there is a drop-off,” said UNO chief marketing officer Mike Rivault. “Due to the currents in the lake there is a drop-off, so it's deceptive, so people think that you can just keep walking and it's going to be shallow and get deeper.”
Rivault says it seems the drop-off could be more than 15 feet and the location could change day to day depending on the currents. The university believes that same danger exists along all of the water on the south side of the lake, but UNO only has control over Pontchartrain Beach, which it leases from the New Orleans Levee Board.
“It's statutorily supposed to be open to the public, but there is one clause in it that states in dangerous conditions and/or for public safety the beach can be closed,” Rivault pointed out. “We felt that because of the incident on Monday that this constituted public safety.”
Today beach gates are locked, police are patrolling regularly, and UNO is adding ‘No Trespassing’ signs while planning to extend the fences in to the water.
People are still enjoying the surrounding area remembering what the beach used to be.
“They had the best beach, they had the best water, they had the best sand, everything to go out there,” recalls Raymond Nicolich.
The New Orleans Levee District says nothing has changed outside the beach boundaries and it has no authority to keep people out of the surrounding water. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, however, warns area swimmers to swim at their own risk.
UNO hopes to have the water safety figured out in time for the Ironman next Spring, which utilizes beach waters. The closure shouldn’t affect boaters or fishers outside the beach boundaries.