Accident Database

Report ID# 8884

  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Inexperience

Accident Description

Father, 3-year-old son drown after kayak flips in Tallapoosa river


UPDATE AT 2 P.M.: Alabama State Troopers have identified the father who drowned in the Tallapoosa River on Sunday along with his 3-year-old son after their kayak flipped. Troopers said 34-year-old Jason Smith, of Heflin, was kayaking with his 3-year-old and 4-year-old sons on Sunday afternoon. Authorities said a 12-year-old was kayaking beside them. 

Cleburne County Coroner Tracey Lambert said Smith's vessel flipped over when Smith tried to grab a tree limb to slow down the kayak. The 12-year-old was able to get out of his kayak and rescue the 4-year-old, Lambert said. "The dad tried to save the 3-year-old, but was unable to," Lambert said.

Father's body was recovered at 10 a.m. Monday. The child's body was recovered around noon.

Lambert said the father and son were not wearing life jackets. "Any time you are in the water, always wear a life jacket," Lambert said. 

Randolph County and Clay County water rescues helped in the recovery. ALEA, Cleburne Search and Rescue, Cleburne County Sheriff's Office, Heflin Fire Department and Hollis Fire Department helped as well.


-Dad With Sons in Kayak Grabs Branch

to Steady It in Rough Water,

Not Knowing What He Was Really DoingANGIE MCPHERSON | JUN 1, 2017 | 11:16 AM


Jason Smith was kayaking down Alabama's Tallapoosa River on Sunday with his three sons when his kayak started moving too quickly.

According to, Smith attempted to grab a tree limb to slow it down. But instead, the maneuver forced the kayak to overturn.

The dad immediately started looking for his three- and four-year-olds in the water.

His 12-year-old son was in his own kayak, WBRCreports. He jumped out and was able to save his four-year-old brother. Then, he watched as his dad and brother disappeared in the current.

Unfortunately, as WVTM 13 reports, neither Smith nor the three-year-old boy was wearing a life jacket.

Screenshot/WVTM 13

Search and rescue teams from several Alabama counties joined forces to help find the dad and three-year-old boy. Both of their bodies were recovered from the river by Monday afternoon.

Cleburne County Coroner Tracey Lambert told that the boating tragedy could've been avoided:

“Any time you are in the water, always wear a life jacket.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 3,536 people die by drowning the U.S. every year. In 2010, there were 672 deaths related to boating. In 88 percent of boat-related fatalities, victims were not wearing life jackets. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of people who die from drownings are male.

As the Heflin, Alabama, community mourns the loss of two family members, authorities hope their tragic story can remind more people to bring along floatation devices when on the water.




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