Woman killed by tree while fishing at Lake Arrowhead in east Bibb

jkovac@macon.comFebruary 24, 2012 

Before she went fishing Thursday, Ethel Mae Riggins stopped by a friend’s house. She joked that they’d all be eating fish for supper.

“Get the skillet ready,” she said.

Riggins, 57, who cleaned houses to make ends meet, had taken the day off with her boyfriend and headed for Lake Arrowhead.

The neighborhood fishing hole on the back side of Bowden Golf Course in east Macon has bream, catfish, white perch and bass in it. A man caught a 12-pound largemouth bass there last year.

Thursday, it felt like mid-spring, with temperatures in the upper 70s. It was almost muggy. You could smell the fish.

It was breezy, too. The wind was whipping at times, sometimes as much as 25 mph or more.

Riggins was on the bank fishing with a red-and-black Bass Pro Shops-brand spinner. There was a red wiggler on her hook.

A little before 1:45 in the afternoon, a gust kicked up.

Her boyfriend, Rodney Curry, was fishing maybe 20 feet away.

He heard a pop.

“Get out of the way, get out of the way!” he yelled.

But before Riggins could move, the top of a 70-foot, rotten pine tree crash-landed on top of her.

The tree, 53 inches around at the middle of its trunk, slammed to the ground, killing Riggins. The dead pine’s tip splashed down in the water.

Riggins lived off Jeffersonville Road. People who knew her said she enjoyed helping folks clean their houses.

An hour and a half after she died, her boyfriend’s father, Robert Curry, stood with a group of men near the end of Fairway Drive. He was waiting for his son who was talking to police by the lake.

The senior Curry, 66, recalled how Riggins had been “in good spirits” earlier in the day when she dropped her grandson off at his house.

“One thing I know,” he said, “when your time is up, you got to go. Nobody knows.”

A few minutes later, his son, Rodney, walked up from the lakeshore.

A muscular Rodney Curry looked spent.

He drifted over to his father and the two men trudged off down the road together.

“Couldn’t pick the tree up,” the son said in a whisper as they left.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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