Nantahala man drowns in scuba diving accident


Davin Eldridge – Contributing Writer

Details are currently scarce regarding the recent death of a Macon County man, who reportedly drowned in Nantahala Lake earlier this week. To date, authorities are still unable to confirm whether the cause of death was linked to subtropical storm Alberto. The call came in just minutes after noon, Monday morning. It was approximately 12:17 p.m., according to the 9-1-1 report filed shortly after the incident. The only remarks from the initial call noted in the document state in all capital letters “DROWNING.” Less than 10 minutes later, more details emerged—the victim was 56-year-old William Shields, of Nantahala. He wasn’t breathing or conscious. The document doesn’t indicate who placed the call, however they advised emergency services at the time it was a SCUBA diving accident. Documents appear to reveal there was some level of confusion and panic early on in the call, as Shields was said to have been “out of the water and not in danger” without any reported injuries one moment, but then 10 seconds later “other type of drowning (or) near drowning situation” was said to be involved. The time was approximately 12:26 p.m., and EMS, Nantahala Fire & Rescue and county fire and law enforcement personnel were en route. Minutes later, at 12:31 p.m., reports indicate that the emergency workers en route to the drowning had not arrived but around 12:38 p.m., the first respondents were on scene. EMS reported making contact with nearby Lake’s End Marina, to provide fire units with a pontoon boat to assist with efforts. This call was made around 12:53 p.m. By 1:29 p.m., EMS reported their efforts were “terminated – will be contacting family.” Two hours later, Macon Funeral Home was transporting the victim’s remains to Franklin. Documents reveal little more about the fatal incident. As of Tuesday, Macon County Emergency Services Director Warren Cabe could not confirm the exact cause of death, however he was able to disclose details of the call. “Initial reports are that the subject was on a dock and fell into the water,” he said, adding that the medical examiner will release the cause of death at a later date. Nantahala fire workers were among the first to arrive on scene, after EMS. According to area fireworker Jennifer Moore, who has served on Nanatahala Fire department for around three years, some of Shields’s family members were already on scene when they arrived. “The ambulance was already there,” said Moore. “When we arrived, EMS was doing CPR, and that was on the dock.” Asked whether this week’s torrential rainfall from subtropical storm Alberto had anything to do with the incident, Moore wouldn’t say. But she did add that reports of drowning have been rare during her time with the department. “We’re pretty remote out here,” she said. “But our response time is very good for out here, too.” While the deceased was transported to Franklin on Monday afternoono, the family came later that day to arrange for Shields’s transport back to their hometown of Smyrna-Marietta, Georgia area.

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