Worker drowns in Lake Wylie

A construction worker who witnessed the drowning of a co-worder in Lake Wylie mourns Friday.
A construction worker who witnessed the drowning of a co-worder in Lake Wylie mourns Friday.

LAKE WYLIE -- A Rock Hill man drowned Friday afternoon while swimming in a Lake Wylie cove during his lunch break, authorities said.

Willie Jamar Heath, 19, spent the morning doing construction work on a house near the water. After eating lunch, he and fellow workers went into the water to cool off, relatives and emergency responders say.

While they were swimming across a cove, Heath started to have trouble.

"A couple of them tried to get him. He was hollering for help, but they just couldn't get him," York County Deputy Coroner Ev Amick said.

The accident took place on property on Mason's Ferry Road in the Mason Crossing subdivision off Lake Wylie Road.

A co-worker called 911. York County rescue divers responded immediately, coming to the scene from the Buster Boyd Bridge, where they had been helping a woman who lost something in the lake, team leader Larry Crooks said.

They were on the scene in about 12 minutes and set up search lines, Crooks said.

Crooks recovered the body about nine minutes after the search began in about 9 feet of water. It didn't appear that the man had been caught in anything, Crooks said.

"He could have cramped up or anything," he said.

The cause of death appears to be drowning, but an autopsy will be done this morning to determine if there were any other factors, Amick said.

Relatives said Heath played football and ran track at Northwestern High School. Even more than playing sports though, he loved being a comedian.

"He was the clown of the family," said cousin Demetrais McCleave. "He used to always do crazy things to make us laugh. He used to cut (back)flips. We used to always make him climb up in the tree to get apples for us."

"We all loved him," added his aunt, Brenda McCleave.

This is the most common time of year for drownings because of the warm weather, Crooks said. The rescue team has only responded to only one other drowning this year, at the Allison Creek Boat Landing on June 16.

"We've been real fortunate we haven't had more," he said.

Crooks has been doing recovery for 30 years, but said it's always difficult to deal with the emotions. "You never get used to it," he said.