Family and friends of 50-year-old Telesforo Chavez grieve. He went under Sunday evening, slipping away in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain.
“If this wasn’t the first time what I want to know is how come there wasn’t no swimming? It’s not just one death, it’s not two, who is next? There are no signs up,” exclaims Chavez’s sister-in-law Jennifer Garcia.
Lake Pontchartrain is a dangerous body of water filled with debris, and undertows. Despite this authorities say for the most part swimming in the lake is allowed, but it’s risky.
NOFD spokesman Gregory Davis says, “They used to have swimming at the other end, where the beach end is, where there is sand and everything, but over here there’s none of that, and no life guard on duty.”
A FRIEND OF Chavez who was swimming with him Sunday, but wished to remain anonymous says, “This turned into a tragedy. We came to have a nice evening. We had been here many times. This never happened. He disappeared.”
Chavez’s friends wish they had a warning. He was just a few strokes from land; right by the pilings was where they say he took his last breath.
Now Garcia is dreading the call to Mexico. She still has to tell her sister that her husband who has been working here for nine years is gone. It’s a reality she doesn’t want to face.
”It’s hard whenever you’re used to having him at your house every day; wondering about how he was before he left, his last words,” says Garcia.
With the July 4th weekend approaching the NOPD doesn’t encourage swimming on that holiday or any other time due to the unpredictable currents and hazards in the lake.
The NOPD says swimming is not prohibited in the lake except for the below listed areas.
170-59. No swimming in certain areas in or near Lake Pontchartrain.
There shall be no swimming or bathing in:
The New Basin Canal from the Lake Avenue Bridge to its entrance into Lake Pontchartrain;
Those parts of Lake Pontchartrain known as the New Yacht Club Pen and the Old Yacht Club Pen; or
The channel which is formed by the confluence or merger of the entrance to the Yacht Club Pens and the entrance to the New Orleans Canal into Lake Pontchartrain from the Coast Guard Station to the North Jetty.
(Code 1956, § 66-14)
Sec. 170-60. Swimming, fishing or scuba diving prohibited in skiing or armed scuba diving areas.
It shall be unlawful to swim or bathe or fish or scuba dive in the following areas of Lake Pontchartrain wherein water skiing is practiced:
That portion of the lake from the east breakwater of Lake Pontchartrain Beach to Franklin Avenue, extending from the shoreline into the lake a distance of 200 yards.
That portion of the lake from the west breakwater of Lake Pontchartrain Beach to London Avenue Canal and extending from the shoreline into the lake a distance of 200 yards.
That portion of the lake between the extension of Canal Boulevard and the extension of the Orleans Canal for a distance of 200 yards from the shoreline.
It shall be unlawful to swim or bathe or fish at any time in the following areas of Lake Pontchartrain wherein armed scuba diving shall be confined:
The first 50 yards from the north shoreline of the Municipal Yacht Harbor breakwater, extending from the Orleans-Jefferson Parish line to 50 feet from the east end of such breakwater, to be measured westward 50 feet from such east end.
The first 50 yards along the entire length of the east side of the New Orleans Airport seawall.
Scuba diving without weapons, fishing, swimming and bathing shall be lawful in all other areas of the lake not prohibited by this section and by section 170-59, which shall remain in full force and effect.
(Code 1956, § 66-16)
Sec. 170-61. Swimming prohibited in Bayou St. John.
It shall be unlawful to swim or bathe in Bayou St. John, from its head at Hagan Avenue to Robert E. Lee Boulevard.