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Tennessee park officials identify 2-year-old who died after heavy flooding at Cummins Falls

Rescue teams from Jackson, Putnam and White Counties and a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter responded.

PUTNAM COUNTY, Tenn. — Update (11:15 a.m.): A 2-year-old boy who was swept away during heavy flooding at Cummins Falls State Park on Sunday has been identified by Tennessee State Park officials.

Steven Pierce of Kentucky was pronounced dead at the scene around 7:15 a.m. Monday, park officials said.

His family was leaving a gorge that is several hundred yards away from the base of Cummins Falls and were trying to cross the water when they were swept away, an assistant chief ranger said during a news conference. The boy was being carried at the time and was not wearing a life jacket. 

Two parents and several other family members were present at the time, park officials said.

It took just two minutes for water levels to dramatically rise, according to the assistant chief ranger. The 11 staff members at the location began to evacuate park goers from the water as it rose.

One reason the water rose so quickly was due to the amount of rain that fell across the watershed, which all collected there, the assistant chief ranger explained.

64 total people were evacuated from the water, and 14 of those were swift water rope rescues, park officials said. 

The rescue was particularly tough for park officials and first responders, they said, because it was a child. 

Park officials emphasized that they do have a large amount of free life jackets at the bottom of the gorge for all ages and sizes for park visitors to use.

And, they said, while there are inherent risks to enjoying the outdoors, they still encourage people to come out and experience Cummins Falls and other state parks. 

Update (9:15 a.m.): A 2-year-old child's body has been recovered after the flooding at Cummins Falls State Park, a news release from Jackson County EMA said.

Search efforts had resumed at 6 a.m. CST Monday, with crews from more than two dozen agencies searching for the victim.

The child was recovered at about 7:12 a.m. CST. 

The child's identity has not been released. 

Authorities plan to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. at the Old Mill Camp Store located at 4801 Blackburn Fork Road.

Original Story: Several adults have been rescued from Cummins Falls in a swiftwater rescue operation in Putnam County, according to the Putnam County Rescue Squad.

A 2-year-old child is still missing, according to rescue crews.

Emergency officials told Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV the call for the rescue went out around 5 p.m. at the popular swimming spot.

Heavy flooding trapped about 50 people in the beginning of the incident, WSMV reported, and most of those got to safety quickly, according to Ethan Burris with Jackson County Emergency Management Agency. 

About 15 people had to be actively rescued, Burris told WSMV. Those people ranged in age from children to adults.

The Putnam County Rescue Squad said rescue teams from Jackson, Putnam and White Counties and a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter are still searching the area, using infrared technology in the helicopter.

EMA officials asked passersby to stay away from the falls while the search is underway.

This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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