A day of fun in the sun turned tragic for a Soso man.
Damion Robine, 21, was pronounced dead on the scene Sunday after somersaulting off the Union Falls bridge and never coming back up out of the murky wa-ters of Tallahala Creek below.
Witnesses at the popular swimming hole said that he turned a flip as he jumped off the bridge on Ovett-Moselle Road, then made an awkward landing about 25 feet below. Two teenagers from Petal tried to save him but couldn’t, they said.
“As soon as he hit the water, on his chest and his face, I took off after him,” said Jared Mooney, 18, who was swimming in the creek at the time.
Joseph Patton, 18, leaped off the bridge to try to help and got his hands on the victim, but couldn’t pull him up to the surface.
“I grabbed his arms and tried to pull him up, but he was pulling me down,” said Patton, who then came up and called for help.
“We got everybody in the water,” Mooney said, “but we couldn’t find him again.”
Mooney and Patton said they did not know Robine. He had just walked across the bridge to where they were after swimming at Union Falls, which is down in the woods on the other side of the road.
Several witnesses told rescuers that Robine appeared to be intoxicated.
Jumping off the bridge has been a rite of passage with area youth for decades. The section where Robine took his fatal leap even had the words “Jump (expletive)” spray-painted on it.
Rescue personnel were dispatched at 1:26 p.m., and divers from the Jones County Sheriff’s Department’s Search & Rescue Team were sent there a little more than an hour later. Lt. David Ward of the JCSD, who was alternating dives with Maj. Jamie Tedford, found Robine’s body just before 5 p.m. The Jones County Emergency Management Agency, EM-Serv Ambulance, Forrest County Search & Rescue and divers, Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks conservation officers, the Jones County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Wayne Black and Deputy Coroner Paul Sheffield also responded.
“We can’t say thank you enough, on behalf of Sheriff Alex Hodge, to all of the responding agencies to what, sadly turned into a recovery effort,” said Lance Chancellor of the JCSD.
Sheffield had to handle the notification of family members and friends who were on the scene waiting nearby. “He handled it with compassion and professionalism,” Chancellor said.
Robine’s father, choking back tears, told Chancellor, deputies and other rescue personnel, “Thank you for trying.”