ELWOOD — Driving along Indiana 13 where Eighth Street at Perkinsville becomes Strawtown Road on Sunday evening, Lazorith J. Vaughn saw a commotion of law enforcement vehicles and first responders.
“I saw a boat on the water with 360-degree span lights searching the river and lots of cops and civilian vehicles,” the Elwood resident said.
Monday, he learned that the body of Charles E. “Chase” Bond, 37, of Elwood, was being recovered after first responders were called to the area about 8:06 p.m. Sunday.
Witnesses, including two of Bond’s companions, reported he had jumped from a homemade platform that has long been erected about 15 feet up a tree along the river.
“That’s terrible because while I never have been to that river, I can’t imagine it being deep enough for a dive,” Vaughn said.
An autopsy was performed Monday, but a ruling on the cause of death won’t be available for several weeks as toxicology tests are performed, according to Hamilton County Coroner John Chalfin.
“He hit the back of his head, but we don’t know if that is the cause” of death, the coroner said.
Bradley Hamm, best friends with Bond since they played peewee baseball together as 6-year-olds, is one of many Elwood residents mourning.
“He didn’t know a stranger. He was real outgoing,” Hamm said of Bond. “He was just real nice to me. I was a real chunky kid growing up, and people made fun of me. He didn’t make fun of me.”
Though Hamm had never been to the spot on the river with Bond, he said jumping into the water sounded like something his friend would do. Bond, he said, also enjoyed playing pool, hunting, fishing and shooting guns.
“He was pretty adventurous,” Hamm said.
Another friend of Bond, Nay Perry, said she considered him family.
“Every time I saw him, he opened up his arms to hug me and ask how I was doing just like I was a little sister to him,” she said. “He came to my firstborn’s baby shower just like he was part of the family, which he was.”
Many lives will be changed because of the loss of a soul like Bond’s, Perry said.
“The love he carried in his heart was so strong and pure you could feel it just being in his presence,” she explained.
“When I was really little, my sister was stood up for prom, and Chase dropped everything and showed up just to make her smile a bit. Although he couldn’t go to prom, he was still there for her.”
Conservation Officer Josiah Julian, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement division, said the area along the stretch of the river where Bond died is popular among kayakers and tubers.
In addition to the platform, a rope swing has repeatedly been put back up after being taken down by conservation officers, he said.
“It’s a popular location to swim,” Julian noted.
The conservation officer said Sunday’s tragedy is the first fatal accident he and his colleagues know of in the area.
Though the incident remains under investigation, he said it appears Bond’s injuries resulted from shallows waters and an ever-shifting riverbed filled with boulders.
“As it is right now, the water is super shallow, and there are some underwater hazards that have been found,” Julian said.