After near-drowning, official warns of Lake Pontchartrain dangers

A father nearly drowned over the weekend after he jumped into Lake Pontchartrain to save his two children.

It happened in the 1800 block of Lakeshore Drive, where a lot of people spend time with their families.

"I grew up out here, and this is a good fishing area sometimes," said Joel Profit, who was fishing off the seawall with his son

Profit said he's aware of the risks.

"Anything can happen," he said. "If you slip off this point and waves are really rough, you can go under the steps."

"Well, there's a lot of algae," said Milton Carter, who was also spending the day at the lake with his son. "As you can see, I pretty much don't let him get pass the third step. One, two, three - that's it for him, that's his limit."

Just 24 hours earlier, not far from the same spot, two children were playing on the seawall steps. An 8-year-old boy slipped into the water. His older brother jumped in, and then their father dove in to rescue both children.

A man who was nearby also went in to help.

The Good Samaritan saved the children, but he couldn't help their 64-year-old father. Minutes later, firefighters pulled the man from the water.

EMS workers revived him, but he's in critical condition in the hospital.

"There's been a lot of effort to clean Lake Pontchartrain up," said John Lopez with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. "I really like to see people come out and enjoy the lake. There are dangers, though."

Lopez said a lot can happen anytime people - especially children - are around a body of water.

"Basically, the seawall gets scoured from the wave action, and it can be severe and it can be deep in places."

The water at some place near the seawall is about 10 feet deep, and if you go in, you'll battle a current and an undertow that could suck you underneath.

"It's actually kind of a cave underneath in some places," Lopez said. "So if you get into the water there - and we don't recommend that - but if you did, there are forces that could pull you underneath."

The bottom steps can also be very slippery.

"So to take a chance of having your kids playing on the steps, running up and down is not a good idea," Profit said.

It's legal to swim anywhere in the lake, but Lopez said there really is no safe beach access on the south shore. He suggests swimming from the public beaches in Fountainbleu and the north shore beach in Slidell.