2 drownings In 2 days at Seabrook have officials exploring solutions

The Orleans Levee Board is investigating two apparent drownings over the weekend near the Seabrook Bridge.

A 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy both died after swimming near a beach under Levee Board control. Now, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation is considering new swimming options 2 miles away, to try and prevent future tragedies.

"My heart sank. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," said Joe Hassinger, the chairman of the board of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East. "We want to know what happened, and why. The investigation is ongoing."

The signs warn people to swim at their own risk, but after the drownings, the parents we spoke with are moving on.

"It's too dangerous. That's why I don't bring my children out here," said Shawndra Johnson.

With the lake cleaner than it's ever been, the lure of swimming is almost irresistible - especially as the temperatures approaches 100 degrees. The Basin Foundation says it's committed to try to make it safer, especially for those who don't know how to swim.

"We signed the lease 6 weeks ago, and we're bringing in sand," said Foundation spokesman Dwight Williams.

Foundation officials plan to redevelop 15 acres of beachfront near UNO for a variety of water activities.

"We want a section for paddleboards kayaks and canoes, then the main swim section, and a kiddie section that's 2-and-a-half feet deep," Williams said.

Officials are also looking into a loaner life jacket program similar to ones that exist at other parts of the lake.

"I would like to see that program developed. I think we will work on that," Williams said.

The UNO plan could take years, so flood authority officials urge caution.

"We would encourage all parents with children to use flotation devices,"

But some parents say no swimming at all.

"They always say, 'Mama can I go?' And I say no because it's dangerous," Johnson said.

The Orleans coroner's office has not released the autopsy results or the names of the victims.

The city says it does not have jurisdiction over the lakefront swimming areas, but there are 14 NORD pools, all of which offer free swimming lessons five days a week.

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