Bodies of two missing tubers found in Amite River _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Tubers stop on a sandbar before the pick up point for Tiki Tubing, Sunday, June 22, 2014. The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office is investigating drownings on the Amite River where two men drowned while tubing with a large group out of Tiki Tubing, Sunday, June 22, 2014.

A Deville man drowned Saturday near the launching dock for Tiki Tubing, an Amite River-based business that has already seen a series of water rescues and another drowning since June.

First responders said the incident happened around 11 a.m. Saturday, roughly 300 yards from the drop-off point of Tiki Tubing’s Denham Springs headquarters.

According to Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard, dispatchers said 52-year-old Elson Johnson, Jr. went underwater shortly after launching from Tiki Tubing. 

Witnesses later said Johnson left his tube and was waist deep in the water when he slipped and failed to resurface.  

LPSO and medical personnel responded to the scene, but all attempts to revive Johnson failed. 

In June, Keith Hilliard, father of LSU pitcher Ma'Khail Hilliard, drowned while Tiki Tubing. 

Three weeks later, rescue crews were once again called to the site after more than 15 tubers were caught in dangerously high waters. 

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In a post on Facebook, Central Mayor David Barrow cautioned residents against entering the river's volatile waters.   

"I urge all of our Central residents to stay out of the Amite River and avoid tubing," Barrow said. "It's dangerous."

Even with 1 tuber dead and 15 more rescued, Livingston officials say their hands are tied

Parish officials told The Advocate earlier this month that there's nothing they can do about Tiki Tubing's business. 

Livingston Parish District 5 Fire Chief Joe Koczrowski previously warned tubers to proceed with caution when participating in any recreational activities on the Amite. 

"The river is angry," Koczrowski said. "I wouldn't want none of my family in that river. Hell, I don't like getting in it in a boat to run rescues."

Livingston Parish spokeswoman Lori Steele said a cause of death will be determined pending the results of an autopsy. 


EMAIL ELYSE CARMOSINO AT ECARMOSINO@THEADVOCATE.COM OR FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER, @ELYSECARMOSINO.