Man drowns at Bankhead Lock and Dam attempting to help others

(Source: Pixabay/stock image)
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 12:32 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 4:48 PM CST
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TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - A person drowned at Bankhead Lock and Dam in Tuscaloosa County on Friday.

Police say at 11:26 a.m., The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office responded to a reported drowning at Burchfield Branch Park, located on the Black Warrior River in the Adger community. The Violent Crimes Unit was called to assume investigation.

This appears to be a tragic, accidental drowning, according to police.

Subjects were attempting to launch a boat from the landing at the park when their boat drifted away. One of the boat owners swam to the boat in an attempt to recover it, but was unable to climb up inside the boat and began drifting alongside of the boat, according to police.

Authorities say at some point, 67-year-old William “Barny” McWilliam observed the boat and subject in the river, then entered the water himself in an attempt to swim to the boat to assist. McWilliam was a volunteer camp host at the park. McWilliam became distressed in the water and went under. He was retrieved by family and carried to shore, where life-saving attempts were performed by Corps of Engineers Park Rangers, soon followed by Antioch Volunteer Fire Department, Brookwood Police, and Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy/Paramedics. Unfortunately, all life-saving efforts failed.

Police say McWilliam’s family has asked for privacy, but wished to thank all the responding agencies and volunteers for all their efforts. The family also wanted it known that McWilliam enjoyed volunteering at the park because of his penchant for helping people. His wife stated he was an Eagle Scout as a teenager, and his entire life was spent looking for ways to help others, and it was not surprising that he would put his life at risk to help someone he didn’t know.

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