Funeral set for Smyrna H.S. student who drowned - WSMV Channel 4

Funeral set for Smyrna H.S. student who drowned

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

Family and friends are remembering an 18-year-old Smyrna High School senior who died on Labor Day in a drowning near the Walter Hill dam on the Stones River.

Matthew Grissom was swimming near the dam with friends when he began to struggle and became trapped in the underwater hydraulics, emergency officials said.

"From all the witnesses' accounts, it seems like they were just swimming. We're unsure what happened. He was a very athletic young man, so we're just really unsure what happened," said Randy White, with Rutherford County EMS. "People tried to get to him to save him, but to no avail. They were unable to reach him.

Authorities said alcohol was not involved, and the group did not have any floatation devices. There are also signs by the water warning of the dangers.

"My girlfriend told me something was going on at Walter Hill, and I was just praying it was no one I knew," said close friend Chuck Sterling.

But Sterling's prayers quickly turned to tears.

"Then I got a phone call from my mom saying Matt died," he said. "He was there for me from day one. It crushed me to lose a best friend."

Grissom's uncle says his nephew got leg cramps.

"Three people tried to save him, and he panicked so bad that they said there was nothing they could do. They tried everything and they just couldn't get him," said uncle C.J. Jatala.

Jatala says, to make matters worse, Grissom's mother recently lost her job.

"You can plan for a wedding, you can plan for the baby to arrive but you just can't plan for the funeral," Jatala said.

Jatala says Grissom wanted to join the military and was involved in junior ROTC. But instead of planning for the future with his nephew, he's now faced with a final goodbye.

"We want to celebrate the fact that Matt has gone to a better place, but we also want to be selfish and have him here," Jatala said.

To help with funeral expenses, the family has established a fund at the FSNB Bank inside both Murfreesboro Walmart stores. Donations are accepted to the fund called "Thomas Coates-Jatala 94."

A visitation for Grissom has been set for Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rutherford County Baptist Church in Smyrna. The funeral will follow at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Labor Day holiday weekend was a deadly one on Middle Tennessee lakes and rivers. A 39-year-old LaVergne man died after a boating accident Sunday at Percy Priest Lake, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.

And a 22-year-old Nashville man drowned at Burgess Falls State Park on Monday.

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