Eighteen-year-old Damond Anthony Ray Beck drowned in Chickamauga Creek, at a section off Carrol Drive in Ringgold behind the Costco store, shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18.
The creek has sections with tall slick sides, including the location where Beck drowned.
Beck’s body was recovered early the next morning after emergency crews worked through the night.
“We’re devastated that he’s gone, and it will never be easy. … But our family just wants to know all the answers to the questions we have,” said Norma Barton, Beck’s maternal grandmother. “I just wish I knew what went on that day, the whole day. … We didn’t even know the kids he was with. He didn't even know how to swim. It makes us wonder why he would have been down there in the water.”
The case is being evaluated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Spokesman Robin Hill said investigators are still gathering information.
“The investigation is ongoing as of now,” Hill said. “We are going to wait on test results from the coroner’s office, toxicology reports, and things like that before we can make any determinations in the case.”
Investigators say Beck was at the creek with another male and a female — they have declined to release their identities — when the female slipped. After the male went to help the girl, the two looked back and could no longer see Beck.
Emergency crews received assistance from Hamilton County Special Tactics and Rescue Services, which used an underwater camera system. After hours of searching, divers recovered Beck’s body about 75 yards downstream from where he was last seen.
Barton, who raised Beck from the time he was a young boy and calls him by his middle name of “Anthony,” said uncertainty and missing details surrounding the case have been impossible to process.
“He’s our Anthony,” she said with sadness. “He’s our grandson, but we’ve raised him like he was ours since he was a little boy. He had a real kind heart. He loved to help people … he was a very brilliant person.”
According to Barton, Beck had been spending a lot of time in the neighborhood off of Carrol Drive in recent weeks as part of his attempt to form a relationship with his father Kenny, who hadn’t really been in Beck’s life.
“He just never could get past it,” Barton said. “It weighed on him all the time, and I honestly believe that it held him back. He wanted his father in his life so badly. It wasn’t as bad when he was younger, but as a teenager it has created problems for him.”
Barton said Beck had been staying with his father off and on at his house, which is a couple of blocks away from the creek. But there was conflict in the household and so Beck would return to stay with her, she said.
Barton said the most recent such incident happened last week.
“I guess it would have been last Wednesday (Aug. 15),” she recalled. “He called and … we went over there to get him. It was storming outside and there the little thing was walking down the street in the rain. So we got him and brought him home.”
A dangerous creek
A neighbor, who lives a few doors down from Beck’s father, said the creek is a definite danger zone for youngsters and that she recently forbade her daughters to swim there.
“I have a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old, and told them not to go down there anymore,” said Audrey Bissoon. “My 17-year-old daughter is a great swimmer, and she couldn’t even handle the current down there…it’s so strong that it pulled her water shoes right off.”
Bissoon also said that a deputy with the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office recently warned children not to go into the creek for health reasons.
“About three or four weeks ago, there was a sheriff’s deputy out here telling kids to stay out of the water because there are chemicals in it,” Bissoon said. “I can’t remember the deputy’s name, but he’s was right, because a lot of kids around here have gotten sick after being in that water.”
Bissoon said her 23-year-old son went swimming in the creek recently and developed a condition on his stomach.
“My son got a boil on his stomach after he swam in there,” she said. “We thought it was some sort of staff infection at first. After some medication, it eventually went away.”
Bissoon believes that with the number of kids in the neighborhood, measures should be taken to keep kids away from the slick creek sides.
“To be honest, I’m surprised there haven’t been more accidents down there with as many kids as there are around here,” she said. “They need to build some sort of fence around it to keep from something else like this happening to someone else’s kid.”
For Beck’s grandmother, she said it saddens her to think of what her grandson’s life could have been had he not been taken from her so soon.
“He’s had so many things stacked against him in his life, and we’ve tried to do our best to protect him,” Barton said. “He was very proud that he had just finished getting his GED…he was a very smart boy, and we were happy with the things he wanted to do in life…he could have done a lot of good.”
Barton said she expects to received Beck’s GED in the mail any day now.
“We’re not blaming or accusing anybody of anything, we just want to know what happened to our grandson,” she added. “It breaks my heart, because he was my baby boy and he always will be.”