SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - A man who jumped overboard in Slidell in an attempt to save his grandson died of a heart attack, according to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner.
Rodney Varnado, 65, of Bogalusa, died of a heart attack on Saturday. Deputies initially reported that Varnado drowned following the boating accident.
However, an autopsy determined that Varnado had no water in his lungs and that he suffered cardiac arrest.
Shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday, deputies received reports of an apparent drowning at the Indian Village boat launch near Slidell. Crews arriving on the scene found Varnado laying on the boat slip just outside of the water. He was unresponsive, not breathing and cold to the touch, deputies say.
Witnesses tell deputies that Varnado was driving a 12-foot flat boat with five other individuals, including three of his grandsons. The boat allegedly 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, witnesses tell officers.
With the exception of Varnado, all individuals were able to make it safely to shore. After a brief search, Varnado was located underwater and pulled to the shore at the slipway. Deputies estimate he was underwater for 5-10 minutes.