Officials warn of Bogue Chitto waters after man dies at Wayne's World


Posted on June 27, 2011 at 6:18 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 27 at 6:21 PM

Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON, La. -- Washington Parish leaders warn everyone to "respect the river" after two men drowned in the Bogue Chitto over the weekend.

"The main thing I stress to people from out of town, they want to come in and enjoy the weekend, is respect the river," said Washington Parish Sheriff Bobby Crowe.

Deputies recovered the body of 31-year-old Reginald Burris of Franklinton from the Bogue Chitto River around 8 p.m. Sunday night. Burris was swimming in the river with family Sunday evening, inside the Bogue Chitto State Park south of Franklinton, when he went under and drowned.

Earlier Sunday around 10:15 a.m., deputies recovered the body of 21-year-old Kirk Craig, Jr. Craig drowned near Isabel.

According to investigators, Craig swam away from his tube while on the Wayne's World tubing trip.

"He swims out, the victim, and goes under," Crowe said. "It's hard to really say what caused it. Cramping? You just don't know."

In 13 years of operating their canoeing and tubing business along the Bogue Chitto River in Washington Parish, it's the third fatality for a customer of Wayne's World.

"People are out here to have a good time and when things like this happen, it's just a sad thing," Wayne's World owner Catherine Mizell said Monday. "It's sad for us. It's stressful for us, and it's sad for the family."

The Mizells offer life vests to every customer, but they say, not a lot of people use them.

"We encourage all non-swimmers and we want all children to wear them," Catherine Mizell said.

Over the summer, Mizell estimates, several hundred locals and visitors take the Wayne's World tubing trip every week. He said there's thousands in a year.

Like everyone who makes a living on the river, she understands the Bogue Chitto's power.

"We try to tell people that it's a fun thing to do, to come on the river, but it is a river, it will take your life in a heartbeat," Mizell said. "You have to be responsible and you have to respect that it is a river."

"There's projectiles. There's all kinds of submerged logs and limbs and all that, but that's just part of the fun," William Radcliff said Monday at the conclusion of his Wayne's World tubing ride. "Dodging those things, detecting them, picking them up."

Radcliff tubed the river with this 13-year-old daughter Brennan, and said, "It was excellent."

The Bogue Chitto River, according to the sheriff, is deceptive. The depth of the river can quickly drop from 3 or 4 feet to 15 or 16 feet deep.

"You can be walking and feel the bottom of the river and then the next minute, your next step may be in a hole where you cannot touch the bottom," Mizell said. "And that's one way people get into trouble."

The river is also filled with debris, fallen trees and vegetation, what Crowe called "logs and underwater obstacles."

And the sheriff added that the Bogue Chitto River has "a little undertow."

As Radcliff put it, "The river is not to be disrespected."