Miss. teen drowns at Smith Lake; 2nd drowning this summer


Oak Hill Academy head coach Chris Craven posted this photo of Thomas Lee Bales on Facebook Saturday night. / Courtesy Chris Craven on Facebook

WINSTON COUNTY – A 16-year-old boy drowned at Smith Lake early Saturday evening, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Winston County authorities, who said the incident was reported at approximately 6:30 p.m. According to ABC3340, Winston County Coroner Larry Dilland identified the victim as Thomas Lee Bales, of Aberdeen, Mississippi. Dilland said Bales was recovered from the water deceased. This is the second drowning this summer at Smith Lake.

Dilland said that Bales was at the lake on a field trip with his church group, according to the ABC3340 report.

The Monroe Journal reported that a prayer vigil was held last night at Oak Hill Academy, where Bales was a student and athlete.

Oak Hill Academy head coach Chris Craven posted on Facebook late Saturday night: "We lost a great young man on our football team at Oak Hill Academy (Saturday) in a swimming accident. He was a yes sir, no sir kind of guy. A very hard worker. He showed no fear in the face of adversity. His smile lit up the room…He was the definition of loyalty and integrity, putting his teammates before himself at all times. I loved him like a son. I will miss you, #9 T-Lee Bales."

Marine Patrol Troopers are investigating the incident.

Bales is the second person to drown at Smith Lake this summer. On July 3, Kenneth Claude Sampsell, 62, of Crane Hill drowned while swimming with family off a dock at a residence near Rock Creek. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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