LPSO: Drowning at Cajun Lagoon appears to be accidental

Father says water park is ‘accident waiting to happen’

John Kissner was working at his family store Tuesday when his church’s youth minister called about Kissner’s son disappearing at Cajun Lagoon near Denham Springs.

Nick Kissner, 14, had traveled to the water park with a Sunday school group for a summer party.

The minister asked John Kissner whether Nick would ever walk off on his own. Kissner said his son would never do such a thing, that he always followed the rules.

The youth minister called 911. Paramedics arrived and found Nick in the park lagoon’s deep end.

The minister called Kissner back, saying the outlook didn’t look good for his son.

“He rode the bus with his Sunday school class,” Kissner said, “and he didn’t make it home.”

A day after Livingston Parish authorities investigated the boy’s drowning at the newly opened Cajun Lagoon, John Kissner, 58, of Port Allen, strongly expressed his frustration with the park, saying its waters are too deep at about 10 to 15 feet and dyed too dark a shade of blue to see anyone at the bottom of it.

Cajun Lagoon, 32347 La. 16 near Arnold Road between Denham Springs and Watson, opened in April. The family-oriented park features a man-made lake and offers swimming, water slides and volleyball, among other aquatic activities.

“The way that place was built, it’s just another accident waiting to happen,” Kissner said.

Jason Ray, one of the park’s managers, said Wednesday that park officials would decline comment on the drowning until the Sheriff’s Office completed its investigation into the matter.

Deputies were still looking into Nick Kissner’s death, but foul play is not suspected, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Gene Higginbotham said.

John Kissner described his son as a sweet, young boy who was bright and worked hard. He enjoyed science fiction and developed a fascination with computers.

Nick worked at the family store, Kissner Co., on U.S. 190 in Port Allen. The store sells animal feed and live animals, such as chickens, goats and rabbits.

“He loved animals,” John Kissner said of Nick. “We have a lot of cats, too, so now I’m trying to pet his cats for him.”

Kissner said he gave Nick swimming lessons when the boy was young but added that he’s not sure the few lessons Nick did receive were enough.

“It was just an accident that I had tried to prevent,” the boy’s father said.

Kissner dropped his son off at the church, which he declined to name, around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Kissner got the call from the youth minister in the early afternoon. Kissner said he arrived at the park in about 25 minutes. He saw his son lying in the sand.

“I felt him when I got there, and he was already stiff,” Kissner said.

Kissner said his son was with a group of about 17 other people. He was unsure how many others were at the park at the time.

Kissner said five lifeguards were on duty but didn’t keep proper track of his son. He also said nobody at the park made the children use a buddy system to keep track of their friends.

“They didn’t realize he was missing until they called him to come out,” Kissner said.

Kissner said his son was swimming in water 10 to 15 feet deep without being provided a life vest. He said his son was found on the bottom about 40 to 50 feet from the shoreline.

The park offers life vest rentals to all of its patrons, but all children 12 and younger are required to wear them.

Kissner said he’s “strongly considering” taking some kind of legal action against Cajun Lagoon.

“They had a lot of negligence in how they handled the thing,” he said.

A family friend of the owners told reporters Tuesday that on-duty lifeguards performed CPR on Nick Kissner before medical personnel arrived and unsuccessfully tried to revive him.

The park shut down Tuesday after the drowning and is set to reopen around 10 a.m. Thursday.