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Bodies of Three Children, Man Found

July 20, 1988

RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) _ The bodies of three children and an adult who drowned trying to save them were found a day after they were swept into the Mississippi River from a drought-weakened sandbar that apparently collapsed, authorities said.

The bodies were taken Tuesday night to Baptist Hospital here, where family members identified them, said hospital personnel director Peggy Holmes.

The victims were identified as Erika Gould, 5; her 6-year-old brother Chris; Rusty May, 2, and his father, Ed May, 33, all of Lauderdale County.

The children were apparently swept into the river Monday evening as May and Lyndell Gould Jr., the Gould children’s father, worked nearby on an all- terrain vehicle, said Lauderdale County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Love.

Gould, a county sheriff’s investigator, had been riding one all-terrain vehicle with his children and May was on another with his son before they stopped on the sandbar to make repairs, Love said.

The three children had gone to the water’s edge to cool off while the men worked, Love said. When the youngsters disapeared, their fathers began searching for them in the growing darkness.

″They looked around and the kids weren’t there. Ed and Lyn jumped in the river and Ed never did come up,″ he said.

Gould, who dived into the river several times after May went under, was released Tuesday from Baptist Hospital after treatment for shock and exhaustion.

Nearly 100 rescue workers and volunteers used at least 10 boats to drag the river for the four, and the Highway Patrol searched by helicopter.

The four disappeared in an area 54 miles north of Memphis and 13 miles west of Ripley.

A towboat that passed by just minutes before the men noticed the children gone could have created an undertow, Love said. Also, the river drops off sharply where the three children stood, he said. The sandbar is behind a dike that creates a whirlpool, Love said.

″There’s a lot of current down there. The swirling motion from the dike could have carried them back up the river,″ he said.

Three people drowned near Natchez, Miss., last month when a sandbar they were walking on collapsed. Since the Mississippi began falling to record lows this summer, hundreds of sightseers and souvenir hunters have been drawn to the river. The U.S. Coast Guard has issued warnings advising people to stay clear of sandbars uncovered by the low water.

″When the river falls it makes sandbars accessible to people, and they’re sometimes undermined by the current underneath,″ Coast Guard Petty Officer Garland McDowell said.