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Man drowns at Jordan Lake trying to help daughter

Posted July 11, 2015
Updated July 12, 2015

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— A 41-year-old man drowned Saturday evening at Jordan Lake while trying to help his young daughter, authorities said.

Leonard Purcell was on a family outing to the lake in Chatham County when he went into the water to help his 11-year-old daughter, who appeared to be in distress, said Charlie Peek, spokesman with the state Division of Parks and Recreation.

Purcell never resurfaced. His body was found 40-50 feet from the shoreline after authorities searched for about 10 minutes.

The girl was unhurt.

Shamica Ashford, who was visiting the lake with her family, watched as emergency crews searched for the man.

“Honestly I just prayed because I saw what happened and was like, ‘Oh my God,’” Ashford said. “They told everyone to stay out of the water while they searched and looked for the body.”

Peek said the area where Purcell went into the water is not designated for swimming, although no signs are posted. He said non-swimming areas are potentially dangerous because they contain obstructions, such as rocks and logs, that can't be seen in the water.

Safe swimming areas, which are designated with signs, have shallow, sandy bottoms and are more easily accessible to emergency crews.

3 Comments

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  • Dati Pemby Jul 12, 2015
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    He did what any father would do.

    No sense in Monday morning quarterbacking it now.

  • Belinda Warrick Jul 12, 2015
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    I don't think it's appropriate to chastise a dead father for rushing to save his daughter's life. Yes it would be prudent to wear a PFD but he may have been a great swimmer and just got caught on something or the most likely scenario is he drowned to keep her from drowning. Even if you're wearing a PFD a small child wearing their own can push you under in a panic. I know this because it happened to me but I was able to get both my children to shore. We were at Discovery Cove in Florida and were swimming in a small pool with stingrays and tropical fish and they got scared. Both of them (ages 8 and 12) climbed onto me and pushed me under but I was able to hold my breath long enough to get them to shore. I was wearing a floatation wetsuit and a life jacket as were they but they got scared of the rays and panicked. They knew how to swim too without any PFD but everything goes out the window when panic sets in. I am praying they find peace in the Lord and hopefully she doesn't feel guilty.

  • Marc Trellis Jul 12, 2015
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    Very tragic and very easily preventable. If you're in murky water and you're not capable of swimming 200 yards without assistance, you absolutely have to wear a PFD at all times. They cost five bucks at Wal-mart and as we see here, they save lives. If father and daughter had worn PFDs, this wouldn't be a story. Prayers go out to the family, and especially the daughter.