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Elizabeth man drowns in Beams Lake

An Elizabeth man drowned about 6 p.m. Saturday in Beams Lake on Sandy Branch Road in Elizabeth while swimming with friends. Mike Harris, 36, who lived in a house adjacent to the lake, swam across the lake, began to struggle, and went under.
‘He made it almost all the way across the lake,’ said Josh DeWeese, who was at the lake with Harris. ‘Then he was just paddling around not far from the bank, and all of a sudden, he went under.
‘It looked like he was just playing around, because he came right back up. But he didn’t yell for help or act like he was in trouble. Then he went down again and didn’t come back up. I swam over there, dived down and grabbed him, but I couldn’t pull him up. I was able to get another guy to help, but by that time he was too far under and we couldn’t find him.’
Someone close by called 911 and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Dept., and Indiana Conservation Officers responded. Divers searched the lake for Harris until about 11 Saturday night, without success.
The search continued early Saturday morning, and around 8:20, Conservation Officers Terry Allen and Steve Kinne, who are divers, found Harris in about 17 feet of water.
Harris was transported to Louisville where an autopsy was performed on Monday.
‘It’s a deep lake,’ said Conservation Officer Mark Farmer. ‘When this was a quarry, there was a road that ran along one edge that is now about 17 feet under water. He was on that shelf when divers found him. Some parts of the lake are about 80 feet deep, but it averages about 60 feet in most places.’
According to Bill Miller of Elizabeth, who owns Elizabeth Auto Parts, the quarry shut down in the 1940s. ‘They would get rock out of it during the summer but during the winter, it would flood,’ said Miller. ‘Then in the spring, they would pump the water out, and use it as a quarry again.
‘They finally just quit using it. There has been only one other drowning there that I can remember, and that was back in the late 1940s.’
The funeral for Harris will be at 1 p.m. Friday at the Pike-Calloway Funeral Home, 1217 E. Spring St., New Albany. Visitation will be tomorrow (Thursday) from 4 to 8 p.m. No other information was available at press time Monday.