Day at Langley Pond ended in tragedy

Aiken family grieves after teen's drowning

AIKEN --- Latina Harris lost her brother to a dare.

 

It was unusual for him to give in to peer pressure, especially after he had already made up his mind not to jump from the bridge.

But he did it anyway.

"That's what's so shocking," Harris said Saturday, six days after her brother Da'than Harris, 16, drowned in Langley Pond.

Da'than, who went by Justin, was finishing ninth grade at Aiken High School. He kept a boyish sense of humor, loved playing cards and listening to rap music. But he was also taking steps toward adulthood: He had just taken his first job, at McDonald's, and was a trusted baby sitter.

He treated his sister to a manicure and pedicure for her birthday.

His goal was to be a chef, and he was a whiz in the kitchen -- usually.

Shontae Croft, a close family friend, said it was always nice when Da'than had supper ready when she arrived. She was less enthusiastic about his experiments.

"I'd tell him, 'Justin, that looks nasty,' and he would shoo me out of the kitchen," Croft said with a laugh.

Croft described Da'than as an eternal optimist who was always cheering her up.

"I really loved that about him," she said.

On May 30, the family was at its usual spot in the recreation area of Langley Pond. Da'than wandered off with his cousins and friends to a bridge near the dam.

When his sister went to check on them, she found them jumping off the bridge into the deep water below. Da'than, who could swim, agreed with his sister that it was a bad idea and didn't want to do it.

As dusk approached, Latina Harris was packing up for the day when she saw one of the cousins running toward the family, waving his arms and shouting. It wasn't until he got closer that she could make out what he was saying.

"We can't find Justin!"

Panic gripped her stomach.

"What do you mean you can't find my brother?" she yelled as she ran toward the bridge.

Da'than had apparently decided at the last minute to jump off the bridge holding a friend's hand. Both boys panicked when they hit the water, but only the friend could be rescued.

First responders and members of the Richmond County and North Augusta dive teams recovered the body an hour later. An autopsy showed no signs that Da'than was injured by the jump.

The family has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy and condolences from friends and relatives who loved the teenager. He will be cremated after a final viewing today.

"We're just praying and taking it day by day," Croft said.

Be careful in the water during warm weather

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