Cummins Falls State Park remains closed after toddler death

Local In TN

Cummins Falls State Park remained closed Tuesday after the death of a two-year-old boy over the weekend. Visitors showed up to closed gates and had to turn around at the entrance.

There have been three deaths in less than two years at Cummins Falls.

It’s really sad, but I mean, it is an eye-opener because we’re travelers and adventurous, so it’s definitely something to look at,” said Dylan Freeman, who was visiting from Boone, North Carolina. “If you got kids, and for us in the future, if either one of us ends up having kids to be super, super cautious and make sure we have life jackets — especially for our kids.”

Jackson County Emergency Management officials said the agency is still in the process of researching a warning system.

There’s now a change.org petition for changes to regulation — it calls for the park’s gates to close during potential flash flooding. So far, the petition has about 5,500 signatures.

Current regulations, which are listed on the state park website, warn that changing gorge levels can pose a danger to visitors and that rain upstream can cause water levels to quickly rise.

But again, there is no warning system is in place at the state park.

Ethan Burris from Jackson County Emergency Management was part of the recovery effort. He said for all the agencies involved, it’s been a tough few days.

“Right now, we’re all just making sure that everybody’s okay,” Burris said. “Of course a loss of any point in time is always hard to deal with, but whenever it becomes a child it’s a lot more difficult.”

Officials encourage the use of life vests — Burris said visitors can find them at the bottom of the falls, by the swimming hole. 

According to the Tenn. Dept. Of Environment and Conservation, the falls at Cummins Falls State Park will be closed through at least Friday, June 14. TDEC said this will allow Tennessee State Parks to assess the June 9 incident.

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