published Friday, April 19th, 2013

Bledsoe County man drowns after being swept from bridge

This photograph was taken about an hour after Clayton M. Worthington vanished while trying to cross a concrete-slab bridge on a rain-swollen creek in the Big Springs Gap community north Pikeville on Wednesday. The car on the other side belongs to Worthington's brother, A.J.
This photograph was taken about an hour after Clayton M. Worthington vanished while trying to cross a concrete-slab bridge on a rain-swollen creek in the Big Springs Gap community north Pikeville on Wednesday. The car on the other side belongs to Worthington's brother, A.J.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A 21-year-old Bledsoe County, Tenn., man died Wednesday in raging floodwaters in the Big Spring Gap area north of Pikeville, Tenn., authorities said.

Heavy rains produced the torrent that swept Clayton M. Worthington from a bridge near Big Spring Gap Road, Bledsoe County sheriff's Detective Ricky Seals said.

Worthington was on his way home from his job at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex when he decided not to try to drive his pickup across the bridge already covered by high water, Seals said.

He called his older brother, A.J., to come pick him up from the other side. The younger brother then attempted to cross, the detective said.

"As he was walking across the creek, he was overwhelmed," Seals said. He said that, because of the heavy rain and flash flooding, several deputies were nearby, including Seals, all of whom headed for the scene when the call went out.

Seals said he got to the bridge in just minutes and, when he arrived, he saw the older brother pointing downstream. Their father, Bobby, got there moments later, he said.

Family members and emergency crews from Bledsoe and Cumberland counties started trying to find the missing man in the flooded creek, Seals said. Worthington's body was recovered a couple of hours later, he said.

Officials said 30 to 40 local residents and emergency crew members helped in the search.

Wade McMackins, of Readyville, Tenn., is a family friend who was shocked by the tragedy.

McMackins said he had visited with the young men and their father a few weeks back to talk and learn about hunting tactics from the father, Bobby Worthington, an author of books and articles about white-tail deer hunting.

"I've been to their house many times," McMackins said. "They're a very tight family, very religious family."

"It's just a tragedy for that family," he said. "He was a good kid."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at facebook.com/ben.benton1 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BenBenton.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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