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Local man drowns trying to save grandson

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to an apparent drowning Saturday morning at the Indian Village boat launch in Slidell.

Shortly after 6 a.m., a nearby resident called 911 after reportedly hearing calls for help. While en route, dispatch received another call in regard to a drowning victim at the boat launch.

When they arrived, deputies found a male, later identified as Rodney Varnado of Bogalusa, laying on the boat slip just outside the water. He was unresponsive, not breathing and cold to the touch. Despite rescue efforts, Varnado was unable to be resuscitated.

After questioning individuals at the scene, it was discovered that Varnado was driving a 12-foot flatboat with five other individuals, including three of his grandsons, aboard when the boat began taking on water. According to witnesses, when one of Varnado’s grandsons fell overboard, he jumped in the water in an attempt to save him. He was able to return the boy to the boat, but shortly afterwards, the motion of the boat caused the other occupants to fall overboard.

All the individuals were able to make it safely to shore; however, they soon realized Varnado was not with them. After a brief search, he was located underwater and pulled to the shore at the slipway. It was estimated that he was underwater for five to 10 minutes.

His body was turned over to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, and the scene was turned over to Wildlife and Fisheries agents for further investigation.