Teen hospitalized after nearly drowning on Ocoee River Sunday morning

Image: WTVC

POLK COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVC) - A 16-year-old is recovering from serious injuries after an accident while she was on the Ocoee River Sunday morning.

Keith Jenkins of Quest Expeditions, a professional white water rafting company, says the girl was using the service to travel down the river at about 10 a.m. when the accident happened.

Tennessee State Parks will investigate the incident, per park policy, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC).

Ryan Cooke, the president of the Ocoee River Outfitters Association, oversees Quest Expeditions, and the area’s other commercial rafting companies. He issued a statement regarding the accident:

“As President of the Ocoee River Outfitters Association and on behalf of its members, I would like to extend my sincere sympathy to the family and friends involved in this tragic event," says President Ryan Cooke, "Please know that our thoughts and prayers will be with everyone.”

NewsChannel 9 went to Polk County on Monday to speak with white water rafting experts about the prevalence of these types of accidents.

"We’ve had at least 12 white water related rescues this summer,” says park ranger Angelo Giansante. “We’ve had statistically more over the past several years.”

In May, the Polk County Sheriff’s department pulled the year’s third drowning victim from the waters of the Ocoee. The Sheriff says they found Rondez Mee about 250 yards from where he slipped and fell in the water. At the time, they called his death a “freak accident.”

Sunday’s accident, however, happened with a registered white water rafting company.

While the circumstances surrounding Sunday’s accident are still under investigation, Ranger Giansante says you can never be too careful out on the water.

“Rivers and white water is not something that comes innately, it’s something that you need to be trained to do," he said. "It’s something that comes with hours of experience."

As of Monday morning, Quest representatives say the young girl was in the hospital, in critical condition, and on life support.

This story will be updated as we learn more.

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