Family grieves, stresses safety after loved one dies swimming in Coosa River

RIVERSIDE, Ala. (WIAT) — A family is grieving after their loved one died along the Coosa River Wednesday in a suspected drowning.

Russell Junior Reeves II, 30, was swimming with family when his mother heard his cry for help.

His sister, Kristalyn, swam out to him and tried to help him get to land.

“When I got there to him it was like something was pulling him down, but I got out of it, and he’s a lot stronger than me,” said Kristalyn Campbell.

Campbell and her mother did everything they could to save Reeves, but he never resurfaced. Officials said he swam a good distance from the shore.

“I miss him so much already,” said Campbell.

Family and friends said Reeves was well loved in the community. Many took to social media to offer condolences.

“The most I’m going to miss about my brother is the happiness that he brought me, the feeling that I belong and that he was my rock,” said Campbell.

While the water along the Coosa River and its lakes may look calm, there is a current. Campbell said a child swimming with her brother is OK because of what he was wearing.

“Thank God for a life vest for a 6-year-old, because he was in his arms,” said Campbell.

Reeves’ family is encouraging others to wear life vests on the water this summer. His mother said the family is relying on their faith in the difficult time.

“My baby is in heaven and he’s with Jesus and I’ll see him again,” said Adrianne Milam.

Dive teams from Leeds, Pell City, and first responders from Riverside came to the scene Wednesday.

In addition to recommending life jackets, safety experts say to know your swimming skills, stay in groups, and be aware of changing currents.

“We were out on a training one time and when we first went in the water the current wasn’t really strong, but by the time we got out of the water, the current had increased a great deal,” said Captain Joshua Herron with Pell City Police.

Herron said life jackets might be the most important item, and recommends wearing the device, not just keeping one close.

“That’s the reason why typically on boats we always require people to have a safety device on, because things can just happen beyond your control,” said Herron.

Reeves family is preparing to say goodbye. Loved ones hope others hear their story and take extra precautions.

“Wear a life jacket, because you never know when you’re not going to be able to see your relative again because there was no life jacket,” said Campbell.

Loved ones thanked first responders and neighbors for all of the efforts to help.

Funeral services for Reeves will be Wednesday, June 7 at Usrey Funeral Home in Talladega.

Reeves’ mother set up a Go Fund Me account to help with funeral expenses. Click here for more on how to help.

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