MANDEVILLE - A small wreath, adorned with baseballs, hung along the Sunset Point Pier on Monday.
It's in memory of 15-year-old Chandler Byrd, one of five siblings, described as a fan of sports and an ideal student who always had a smile on his face.
Byrd drowned Saturday evening when he jumped from the pier into Lake Pontchartrain to retrieve his ball cap, which had been blown off by the day's strong winds. Byrd's uncle, who jumped in to try to save him, was rescued.
Area resident Jim Heap saw the activity Saturday, but only learned today what it was for.
"There were Mandeville Police cars going all up and down Massena Street," he said, "It's so sad, especially the age of the fella."
It was a tough call for the rescue teams from the St. Tammany Sheriff's Office and Coast Guard tasked with finding Byrd in the challenging conditions that day.
"We had a southeast wind blowing, which caused the waves to be around four-and-a-half, to five-feet in the area of Mandeville Harbor and the area right around the Causeway," said Sheriff's Office Operations Division Capt. Brett Ibert, "The divers found that it was very difficult to stay on the bottom. They were over-weighting themselves just to stay on the bottom and look for the young man."
The teen's body was spotted on the west side of the Causeway later that evening. The far-away discovery, and description of how the lake turned on the teen, is no surprise to Charter Captain Andy Jones, who is also a Coast Guard veteran.
"You have to be paying attention," he said, "Even when they say it's going to be a nice day, you're thinking 8-10 knots of wind and you look up and you've got 17 knots of wind on the lake, the dynamics change considerably."
With families turning to area waters more frequently as the temperatures warm up, this is a tragedy the public is urged to keep on their minds.
Support for Byrd's family has exceeded the $20,000 goal set by a GoFundMe account just a day ago. Byrd's school, Ponchatoula Junior High, also raised money for the teen's family Monday.
If you'd like to help as well, head here: https://www.gofundme.com/funeral-expenses-for-chandler-byrd
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