Body of Northeast Community College student who drowned in Alabama recovered

By Kathy Wingard/The Associated Press

COURTLAND, Ala. — The body of 20-year-old Mississippi college student who drowned while fishing in Lawrence County was found Friday, authorities said.

Simeon Gray was pulled from Spring Creek in the area that search and rescue K-9s teams indicated they had a hit. When searchers were certain they could retrieve Gray’s body, Gray’s family was cleared from the bridge where they had been watching the rescue operations since Wednesday night.

Gray’s father identified his son, according to Lawrence County Coroner Scott Norwood. He said the cause of death will be accidental drowning.

Tracking dogs from HEMSI Search and Rescue in Huntsville were instrumental in narrowing down the search area. The K-9 search and rescue team is specially trained in water searches.

Time was at a premium for finding Gray because the Tennessee Valley Authority, who had closed the dam gates to make it easier to search for Gray, saw a fast rise in the depth of the creek and the gates may not have been able to stay closed.

Gray and his four friends had gone fishing after Gray had returned home from Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville, Miss., The Decatur Daily reported (http://bit.ly/14bm6RB ).

Gray had been moving hand-over-hand across the creek using concrete supporting underneath the Lawrence County Road 400 bridge span when he slipped and fell into swift currents, according to Norwood.

Norwood said that foul play had been ruled out.

Gray couldn’t swim, Norwood said. He was wearing fishing boots that would have filled immediately with water. His friends and others fishing at the creek attempted a rescue, but were unable to find Gray.