A Washington Parish man died after jumping from the boat he was piloting to try to save his grandson in the West Pearl River near Slidell, officials said.
Rodney Varnado, 65, of Bogalusa, was piloting a 12-foot flatboat holding five other people, including three of his grandsons, about 6 a.m. Saturday when the boat began to take on water, according to St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. George Bonnett.
One of Varnado’s grandsons fell overboard, and Varnado jumped into the water to rescue him.
Varnado was able to get the boy back into the boat, but shortly afterwards the motion of the boat caused all the passengers to fall overboard.
When the group reconvened on the shore, they discovered that Varnado was not with them, Bonnett said. A search ensued, and they were able to pull him up on the boat slip at the Indian Village boat launch in Slidell. They estimated he had been underwater between five and 10 minutes.
When deputies arrived, Varnado was unresponsive, not breathing and cold to the touch. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, Bonnett said.
Deputies initially thought Varnado had drowned, but an autopsy showed no water in his lungs and attributed his death to a heart attack, according to Coroner Charles Preston.