Mother seeks answers from Alabama Power after son's drowning - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Mother seeks answers from Alabama Power after son's drowning

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Susan Picken looks at a photo of her son, John. She wants answers about why he died. Susan Picken looks at a photo of her son, John. She wants answers about why he died.
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TALLASSEE, AL (WSFA) -

It is still very hard for Susan Picken to accept the fact her oldest son John is gone.

"He smiled a lot and loved people," said Picken.

John Picken and three others including a brother were fishing from the rocks of the Tallapoosa River in Tallassee when the water quickly rose, clear evidence Alabama Power had opened its dam in Tallassee a quarter of a mile away upstream. This is a regular occurance for the power company. The 27-year old Picken somehow lost his footing and slipped. The others survived.

For Susan Picken the issue is whether the warning signal even sounded before the dam opened and if it did.. why didn't the boys hear it?

"The purpose of the warning is to sound the warning before the water is supposed to rise. Three people who survived can testify they didn't hear it," said Picken.

John Picken drowned on May 9th and on that day the water rose very quickly and it was unforgiving.

Two months after Mr. Picken drowned the Tallapoosa River is a different story. It's full today much of it due to the recent rains and the currents are swift.

"Both of my sons are good swimmers and certified divers," said Picken.

Susan Picken says she tried to get her questions answered but she claims no one from the power company responded.

"I will attempt again," said Picken.

In an email statement to WSFA 12 News today Alabama Power said: 'We operate our dams under safety plans filed with regulators that do include sirens and signage near our dams.'

There is, in fact, a huge sign near the boat ramp on the river, not far from where the fishermen traveled to get to the rocks. The sign in effect warns people of 'rapidly rising waters and to use life vests.'

Alabama Power confirms it did receive an email from Picken and has 'every intention of getting back with her.'

The fishermen were not wearing life vests but Picken says no one does while fishing from the rocks.

Still, what troubles John Picken's mom the most is the fact the survivors say they 'never heard the siren or any kind of warning signal.'

Susan Picken still has questions, searching for answers to help her find closure.

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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