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Fisherman Tried to Save Drowning Teen

Posted June 6, 2007
Updated June 7, 2007

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— Scott Blay was fishing Wednesday morning when he said he saw a teenager and a man go into the water at Falls Lake.

The teen was Eddie Allen, a 16-year-old student at Hillside High School. He was on a fishing trip with his mentor, Garrick McCollum, when Allen dropped his cell phone into Falls Lake, authorities said.

McCollum told Allen to forget about the phone, but the teen jumped in after it and began to drown, authorities said.

McCollum, 24, then jumped in after Allen and also began to flounder, according to officials. Blay, who was fishing nearby, jumped in and later pulled McCollum to safety but couldn't help Allen.

“I heard them hollering for help,” Blay said. “I got in the water. Nobody could swim real well.”

A call went out to the Redwood Fire Department, but it would be a few minutes before help arrived.

Blay said he almost drowned trying to save Allen and McCollum. They tried to latch onto a nearby concrete slab, but couldn’t get a grip because of the algae built up on it. They kept slipping back into the water.

Blay decided to swim back to dry land to grab his fishing pole, he said. By that time, Allen had already gone under, but he knew he could still help McCollum.

“I had to lean out. He grabbed the pole and just held on. We sat there for about five to 10 minutes,” Blay said.
Although he is grateful for the life he saved, Blay said he grieves for the teenager he couldn’t help.

“I feel bad, but I do feel good because I was able to do something,” he said.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office is investigating the case, but is treating it as an accidental drowning.

McCollum is a mentor with Covenant Community Partners of Durham. It is a nonprofit organization that works with the state Department of Health and Human Services, offering several programs for teens and others.

The incident occurred near Cheek Road and Old Weaver Trail at the Wake-Durham county line.