A city employee trying to clear out debris from a drain after water began to back up on nearby streets fell into the rushing water and died Monday. A frantic rescue attempt by emergency personnel was unsuccessful.
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White House city employee John Bosch, 48, was called to help with the drainage problem at Hillwood Drive and Walnut Court at about 3 p.m. Monday when water began to back up on the street. It was a routine job for the Public Works employee after a heavy rain.
When Bosch began removing the debris, he suddenly fell into the rushing water into an underground culvert. Donnie Eden, who lives down the street, witnessed the "frantic" effort to save Bosch.
"It just broke my heart. I knew something was wrong the way other city workers were trying to dig up the ground. They were working hard; they were frantic," said Eden.
The rescue operation turned into a recovery effort. Bosch's body was found about 40 yards from where he had fallen.
"It's really tough when you're that close to something really bad happening like that. It's tough," said Eden.
There is a labyrinth of drainage ditches throughout the White House neighborhood. They are designed to carry water away, and it works well until debris builds up and holds back the water.
"As soon as my two little girls found out about the accident, they said a prayer for him," said Eden.
Bosch was originally from Wisconsin. He moved to Tennessee five or six years ago to be with his mother after his stepfather died suddenly of heart attack. Bosch had lost his job in Wisconsin and landed his job with White House.
Bosch's girlfriend, Shirley Martin, was diagnosed with breast cancer in September and said Bosch was very supportive. She said he shaved her head when chemotherapy was making her lose her hair.
"There was nothing he wouldn't do for anybody," said Martin.
Martin said that she and Bosch's mother were worried Monday about him working outside in the weather.
"We worried about it all day because we know the type of work he does," said Martin. "It was so bad looking. His mother and I both, all day, just kept worrying and saying how bad it was and hoped they weren't in trouble."
Martin said she believes the man she fell in love with more than two years ago was desperately attempting to help people in the White House neighborhood when he was sucked into a rain-swollen culvert.
Bosch was also an Army ranger.
"He was just awesome. He was awesome. He'll be sadly missed," said friend Lyn Blume.
Reporters Alan Frio and Cynthia Williams contributed to this story.