(Tennessean) Following the death of a 2-year-old this weekend at Cummins Falls State Park, four legislators are demanding a warning system be installed — and asking the state environmental department why it hasn’t acted sooner.
Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta; House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville; and Rep. John Mark Windle, R-Livingston, sent the letter Tuesday to the deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“It is past time to make installing a warning system a priority,” the lawmakers wrote to Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson. “We cannot continue losing precious lives at one of Tennessee’s most visited parks. We ask for your immediate attention to this matter and prompt installation of a warning system before more lives are lost.”
he legislators reminded Bryson that TDEC in 2017 announced it would be installing a warning system at Cummins Falls State Park, including water gauges and cameras to better monitor the gorge’s rising levels.
That year, two people died during flash flooding at the state park, which has only been open eight years.
J.R. Tinch, assistant chief ranger with Tennessee State Parks, said on Monday that the gauges and warning systems have not yet been implemented.
“It is now June 2019, another life has been lost and the warning system has still not been installed,” the lawmakers wrote. “After the last death, it was our understanding that a system would be implemented in an effort to prevent further deaths. Why has this warning system not been installed at Cummins Falls State Park?”
The legislators asked Bryson to give “immediate attention” to the matter and promptly install the warning system.
A recovery crew found the body of 2-year-old Steven Pierce Monday morning several hundred yards from the falls. Authorities say he was killed by floodwaters surging through a gorge near the waterfalls Sunday.
The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency reported that 64 park visitors were rescued at the park Sunday due to heavy rainfall.