SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Family and friends of the six teens who drowned in the Red River 10 years ago held a special tribute ceremony Sunday night in their honor. They lit balloon lanterns and released them into the night sky at the Charles and Marie Hamel Memorial Park.
13-year-old Takeitha Warner with brothers Jamarcus Warner and JaTavious Warner both 14 and 17 drowned alongside 18-year-old Litrelle Stewart, 17-year-old LaDairus and 15-year-old Latevin trying to save their cousin DeKendrix Warner.
It was August 2nd, 2010, when the teens were wading off a sandbar near Clyde Fant Pkwy. None of the teens could swim. Rena Blalock, mother to the Stewarts says it’s been ten years from the worst day of her life.
“People see me as a strong person, but I just see myself as just trying to make it,” said Blalock, “Cause most people wouldn’t have survived this tragedy. People have a hard time with one and just to lose three, it’s terrible. Through the grace of God and my family, I made it and I’m still making it.”
Blalock says she loves the display from family and friends annually for the six, because it’s keeping their memory alive.
Members of the Warner family attended Praise Temple Church at the time, and Bishop L. Lawrence Brandon remembers getting the phone call about the events that day.
“My heart dropped and then I was further bothered to receive the devastating news that it was six children as they were going in one after another to save the other,” said Bishop Brandon.
A family hour was held for all six teens at his church before the three Warner teens life were celebrated in their homegoing.
A year after the drownings, Project Swim became a program offering free swimming lessons. Since the program’s inception, all surviving members of Warner and Stewart families, who lost family members in the 2010 incident, have learned to swim.
“It was just a horrible event, but I’m grateful that out of that good comes. Out of that many children were offered free swimming lessons and were encouraged to take swimming lessons. Those who couldn’t afford swimming lessons, there’s some that sponsored them,” said Bishop Brandon.
Since the City of Shreveport pools were closed due to COVID-19, Project Swim was suspended for the 2020 year.