Day at Langley Pond ended in tragedy

Aiken family grieves after teen's drowning

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

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Latina Harris sheds tears while holding her daughter Makila. Her brother Da'than, 16, drowned during the Memorial Day weekend after jumping off a bridge into Langley Pond.  Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Latina Harris sheds tears while holding her daughter Makila. Her brother Da'than, 16, drowned during the Memorial Day weekend after jumping off a bridge into Langley Pond.

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.

Comments (14) Add comment
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johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 06/07/10 - 05:25 am
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A confident swimmer panicked?

A confident swimmer panicked? This is one of the tragedies of summer. My parents saw to it that we had swimming lessons as soon as we could talk and each of my siblings and I took a life saving/ water safety course before starting high school. Throughout our lives we all have been water buffs and have helped rescue people swimming with us. This type of knowledge is invaluable to swimmers.

scoobynews
3854
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scoobynews 06/07/10 - 07:53 am
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It is stories like these that

It is stories like these that will make me also put my son in swimming lessons as soon as he is old enough. This young man seemed like a good person who made a bad choice. I hope his family find peace.

Indigo
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Indigo 06/07/10 - 08:06 am
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Im so sad for this family.

Im so sad for this family. They will forever blame themselves. It makes one grateful for the families we have, warts and all.

sojourner
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sojourner 06/07/10 - 08:36 am
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The county won't pay for

The county won't pay for repairs to the nearest public pool...so no swimming lessons for most of these kids now, either.

lylagirl
1
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lylagirl 06/07/10 - 10:55 am
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What do you mean "these"

What do you mean "these" kids....

lylagirl
1
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lylagirl 06/07/10 - 10:56 am
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What do you mean "these"

What do you mean "these" kids....

lylagirl
1
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lylagirl 06/07/10 - 10:56 am
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What do you mean "these"

What do you mean "these" kids....

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 06/07/10 - 11:07 am
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They mean kids who aren't

They mean kids who aren't swimmers or good swimmers....what do YOU think they ment?

andywarhol
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andywarhol 06/07/10 - 11:59 am
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lylagirl, it doesn't take a

lylagirl, it doesn't take a 3rd grader to know which kids "these" are in that sentence. I'm assuming you are one of "those" ultra-sensitive, race card waiving, thoughtless people. You are actually a detriment to equality.

PeggyRuth382
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PeggyRuth382 06/07/10 - 12:47 pm
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Its a crying shame when some

Its a crying shame when some on here has to take a families tragedy and turn it into a race issue. It doesn't matter what color their skin is. A family has lost a child. Sure his choice was not a good choice. But its been done and we should ALL sympathize with the family. How many on here has made bad decisions? If you say you haven't, you're lying!! I am so sorry for the family. I wish there was something I could do to ease the pain!!

Cadence
219
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Cadence 06/07/10 - 01:56 pm
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This is so deeply sad and

This is so deeply sad and such a loss to society. It sounds like this young man had a lot of promise and had a family who loved him very much. I can only pray that God will comfort them now as they move through this awful time.

rmajor
8
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rmajor 06/07/10 - 05:29 pm
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This is so unfortunate. It

This is so unfortunate. It was just kids doing what kids do. They play...and they dare. Lord have mercy. Indigo you are right. The family will blame themselves and Memorial Day will be sad for them going forward, although it was just about having family fun. Lord have mercy on them and the other kids. I pray they get counseling of some sort for the kids. Who knows how this will effect them? Especially the friend who jumped off with him, but survived. Sad:(

angeleyes
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angeleyes 06/07/10 - 05:47 pm
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this is so sad. my heart goes

this is so sad. my heart goes out to his family and friends

KSL
129553
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KSL 06/07/10 - 06:31 pm
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I appreciate the AC giving us

I appreciate the AC giving us the rest of the story. Condolences to the family and friends.

dougk
3
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dougk 06/07/10 - 06:50 pm
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Unfortunately, it's not often
Unpublished

Unfortunately, it's not often that I see the compassion and rational thinking that is coming across in reaction to this tragedy.
All too often news stories like these are accompanied by victim and bystander blaming and lots of finger wagging.
My deepest sympathy to the family...I can only imagine the heartache stemming from this loss.

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