Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Residents spooked after lake claims more lives

Latest drownings all in same family

By Joshua Hammann
The Associated Press

        PITTSBURG, Ky. - Residents of this Laurel County community are calling the latest two drownings in Wood Creek Lake more than tragic. To them it's eerie.

        The state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is investigating the June 28 deaths of Harold Ray Vaughn, 31, and his 54-year-old stepfather, Vernon Jackson Jr.

        But what's got the town so mystified is that the two were the latest in a string of family drownings in the same area of the same lake.

        Albert Vaughn's 1974 drowning was ruled a suicide. When another Vaughn drowned at the same place 14 years later, it was called an accident.

        When Harold Ray Vaughn, Albert Vaughn's grandson, and Jackson died, people in the town said the connection seemed preposterous.

        “That kind of thing doesn't happen here,” said Ralph Manning, whose back window overlooks the lake. “The idea of it happening to the same family so many times is bizarre.”

        Swimming is banned in the lake, which was created in 1968 from construction of a dam across Wood Creek. The water is waist deep at the shore but quickly drops off to about 140 feet.

        Police said they are investigating whether alcohol played a role in the latest drownings.

        Robbie Vaughn, who lost his brother and stepfather in the latest drownings, said he can't imagine why his brother was drawn to the same remote part of the lake's shoreline where a mile-long gravel road dead ends in the water.

        “He was pretty dead-set against being around water,” Robbie Vaughn said. “We were both terrified of the lake from growing up.”

        Harold Ray Vaughn couldn't swim and had an artificial hip, according to his brother. What's more, the stories the brothers heard growing up about the earlier drownings in the family instilled a deep-seated fear of water in them.

        Paul Napier, superintendent of the 700-acre lake, said last month's drownings were the first at the lake since he took the job in 1991. There are no records on overall drownings, he said, but he believes there have been other drownings outside the Vaughn family.


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