A split-second decision has lasting impact

It was likely a split decision … a hastily-made choice that will have lasting impact on the Folse’s and families along the stretch where the Gulf Intracoastal Canal and Bayou Terrebonne meet.

Signs in the area warn that the canal is not fit for swimming. In fact, it’s banned. The water is deep – as much as 30-plus feet in sections – to allow boats to navigate the waterway without running aground. And the current is unforgiving.

It is a difficult lesson reinforced last week after 14-year-old Tyrez Folse lost his life while trying to make his way across the Intracoastal April 7.

The calm surface likely looked inviting as Tyrez and his friend contemplated lazily drifting across to the homes of a young girl across the canal. But the surface is deceiving.

And last Tuesday, Tyrez wasn’t thinking about the posted sign warning “No Swimming Allowed, Underwater Obstruction, Strong Currents in Area.” The shaded stretch under the downtown Houma twin spans is inviting in the afternoon heat, after all.

Houma Police Lt. Todd Duplantis reminded residents in the following days – as officers, Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies and members of the U.S. Coast Guard continued to search for Tyrez’s body – that swimming in the area is strictly banned. Following last week’s drowning, Houma Police will be strictly adhering to the law.

“If anyone is caught, we’re going to charge them accordingly,” Duplantis said. Gone are the days of a stern warning.

In fact, Duplantis said, it is unlawful for residents to hang out on the eastern banks under the twin span. Again, posted signs warn that the property is state-owned and that trespassing is not allowed.

In the coming days, Duplantis said patrols will be stepped up along the canal in hopes of reminding others to adhere to the law.

Louisiana’s waterways are, for many, the main attraction to living on the coast. The fishing, boating and swimming are a way of life. As natural as breathing in and out.

But as we were reminded last Monday, the water can become treacherous in an instant. It’s a sorrowful, costly reminder and one that we can all learn from.