Only days after the tragic drowning death at a pond outside Lillington, some members of the community are trying to get the location closed.
Justice Clark, 18, died by drowning after swimming at a pond on Flyway Lane which is off Joe Collins Road west of Lillington. He was the second Harnett Central High School student to drown in the pond in the last five years. Several other people have also drowned at the location. The pond is a former quarry. It now sits behind a mobile home park in a rural area. The pond is largely surrounded by wooded areas.
Local residents have said there are extreme drop-offs, with areas as deep as 40 feet in depth.
The pond is labeled with signs outlawing fishing and swimming, which are apparently ignored by students. Both of the drownings in recent years have come near a rope swing.
A local nonprofit organization which specializes in helping families who have lost young children and teenagers is now getting involved. The Forever in Our Hearts Foundation also works to prevent accidents from happening to children and teenagers. All of those associated with the foundation have been directly affected by the tragic loss of a young person.
The group’s creative marketing director, Patricia Adams, said the accidents at the pond got her group’s attention. They will launch a petition drive at the Angier Bikefest this Saturday, June 6th to try and get the lake closed.
“We try to prevent accidents to children when we can and these deaths could have been prevented,” Ms. Adams said. “Something should have been done after the first drowning and then this wouldn’t have happened this week.”
According to Harnett County GIS land records, the lake is owned by Joshua and Rebecca Quinn. Records indicate they live on Main Street in Benson.
Donald O’Quinn owns land near the pond. He said after the drowning five years ago, which took the life of Drew Watkins, he was contacted by attorneys.
“They said they were going to sue me, but I don’t own the lake so nothing came of it,” Mr. O’Quinn said.
Mr. O’Quinn said there are often swimmers in the area. He said there have been several other near tragedies at the site in the time he has owned the land. Harnett County Schools Director of Public Relations Patricia Harmon Lewis said there is not much the school system can do to stop school-age children from going to the pond. “The signs say no swimming, I don’t know what else could be done,” she said.
Students and staff members at both Harnett Central High and Harnett Central Middle School are continuing to recover from the shock of the accident, Justice’s mother is a middle school teacher at the middle school. Students there wore black Tuesday in honor of the victim.
Justice was a well-known athlete at Harnett Central and would have walked across the graduation stage with his fellow seniors next weekend. He was planning to attend East Carolina University.
Many of Justice’s teammates from the Harnett Central football team and others from the school gathered for a prayer vigil last week near the large Kipling Cross, located on U.S. 401 between Lillington and Fuquay-Varina. Many in the group wore red in their teammate, friend and classmate’s honor.