Loudon County bluff death of Justin Caywood investigated as accidental drowning
By Wes Wade | (email@example.com)
Authorities said the Saturday night death of a Friendsville man after he jumped from a steep bluff in Loudon County is being investigated as an accidental drowning.
Justin Caywood, 23, jumped from a nearly 50-foot-high rock formation called “the bluff” off Jackson Bend Road near Tellico Dam Saturday night, authorities said. He jumped at around 9:30 p.m. Saturday and his body was not recovered until around 11:20 a.m. Sunday.
Authorities with the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office said they are currently investigating the incident as an accidental drowning and are awaiting autopsy results. Caywood’s body was initially taken to Fort Loudoun Medical Center early Sunday morning before being transported to University of Tennessee Medical Center for autopsy.
Jorga Prater, Caywood’s mother, said family members initially went to Fort Loudoun Medical Center, where they thought they would be able to view the body. Prater said she was told at the hospital that Caywood’s body would have to be sent to UT Medical Center for further investigation.
Prater said it was not until later that day when she heard family members mention an autopsy that she realized her son was taken to Knoxville for autopsy. She then phoned UT Medical Center at around 7 p.m. and learned the autopsy had been completed. She was then informed she would have to wait until the body was sent to the funeral home before a viewing could take place.
Prater said she did not get to see the body until 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. Monday at the funeral home. She said the delay cost the family healing time.
“(Now) we can’t get closure until we have a funeral,” Prater said.
Ashley Hinkla, marketing manager at Fort Loudoun Medical Center, said she wasn’t immediately familiar with the specifics of what happened Sunday, but would look into the situation. She explained that hospital staff have to follow the instructions of law enforcement and allowing family members of the deceased to gather at the hospital is a public service they provide.
“There’s not really much we can do but provide (the family) a place to be,” Hinkla said. “Because we don’t do an autopsy it’s a place for them to come and gather. We’re not providing medicine or healthcare services at that point.”
Hinkla said she can’t imagine that a staff member would tell the family they could not view the body unless they were so instructed by law enforcement.
“That’s not something we would do on our own; we don’t make those decisions for people,” Hinkla said. “All we do here is provide a public service ... situations (like this) are very unfortunate.”
The detective investigating the case could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bluff popular place
Prater said the area her son jumped from is a popular destination for young people. While she said her son may have drunk two or three beers that night while visiting the bluff with a friend, she said she doesn’t believe he was drunk when he jumped into the water.
She said there are two formations that people often jump from and that her son jumped from the higher of the two. As she understands the incident, when her son jumped he did not jump far enough out and his head struck a rock.
Family and friends alike described Caywood as a caring person who lived lie to the fullest. Close friends Brian Thatcher, Bryan Broburg, Charlie Agee and Richie Harkleroad said Caywood would do anything for his friends.
“He was one of the best people I’ve ever known,” Harkleroad said. “Any time anyone ever needed anything and they called him, he would be there. And he knew that about his friends, too ... he was never judgmental. He listened and he never assumed (anything) without knowing.”