The Sheriff’s Office identified an 85-year-old man who drowned in a western Orange County pond this week as Junior McKemly Kallam of Burlington.
Kallam’s family became concerned when they could not reach him Tuesday and alerted authorities after finding him in a pond on property adjacent to the Rigmor House on N.C. 54, Investigator Tim Horne said. His fishing rods and tackle were found nearby.
Deputies are investigating, he said, but think it was an accident. The state Medical Examiner’s Office will decide if an autopsy is needed, he said.
No one was on the property at the time of Kallam’s death, Horne said.
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The retired minister had fished there many times before, he said, but they think Kallam may have stumbled Monday onto a possible killdeer.
The killdeer is known for nesting at ground level in fields, open areas and near water, and has an unusual way of protecting its nest, faking an injured wing to draw perceived predators away. The bird can become aggressive if a predator gets too close to the nest, however, and attempt to scare it away.
The bird flew at emergency responders when they arrived at the pond Tuesday, Horne said.
“When we got close, where he would have been standing, where the worms were scattered, and where his rod and he presumably went in the water, that’s right where that mother bird had her nest,” he said. “She was very protective. She was hissing, flying around.”
Kallam was found face down in the water near the nest, about 10 feet from a low wall ringing one side of the pond, he said. They think the bird startled Kallam, causing him to trip over the wall and fall into the water.
The water would have been cold – between 55 degrees and 60 degrees, Horne said – which could have caused shock.
“Cold shock” is life-threatening at those temperatures, expecially for children and seniors, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety. The person can lose their breath, forcing them to gasp deeply, experts say; their heart, blood pressure and mental state also can be affected.
If the person’s head is underwater, they can immediately drown.
“It’s certainly unfortunate that something as simple as this – a freak occurence – can take somebody’s life,” Horne said.