Harrison County

Coroner identifies the 3 teens pulled from Biloxi River after accidental drowning

The bodies of three teen boys were pulled from the Biloxi River on Thursday evening after drowning while swimming, officials said.

Chief Deputy Coroner Brian Switzer identified the victims as Travis Roberson, Javonte Johnson and Eric Smith Jr. All three were 14 years old and from Gulfport.

The teens were swimming in the river at Dedeaux Park off of River Road near the intersection of Three Rivers Road and Tradition Parkway, said Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt.

Witnesses said they appeared to be struggling in the water before they disappeared, he said.

Gulfport police and fire responded to the scene at about 4:08 p.m.

Two boys were pulled from the water around 6 p.m. and the third was found just before 7:30. Beyerstedt said a man tried to rescue the boys while they were struggling, but the witness could not get to them.

Family and friends cried out as Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania broke the news that the third boy was found.

“This river is unfortunately... we’ve seen this before and its currents are strong,” Papania said.

Rescue divers with the Gulfport Fire Department, Harrison County Fire Services and the Mississippi Mortuary Response Team helped find the boys. Several agencies, including the Biloxi Police Department, Mississippi Marine Patrol and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, also responded.

The incident is being investigated as accidental, Gulfport police said.

Alyssa Newton is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a background in television, radio and print. She’s originally from Dothan, Alabama and has a journalism degree from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Her passion lies in storytelling, news, sports and a strong espresso.
Lauren Walck has been in journalism on the Gulf Coast for 10 years, and she’s the Sun Herald’s senior news editor and a regional growth specialist. She is a native of Mobile, Alabama, and an alumna of Louisiana State University.
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