Former footballer drowned in lake after friend shouted '1, 2, 3, jump'

Ex-Nottingham Forest academy player, 24, who couldn’t swim drowned after leaping off boat into cove when friend yelled ‘1, 2, 3, jump’, inquest hears

  • Derrick Otim, 24, drowned after friends told him to jump into Lake Keowee, SC 
  • The group stopped in a cove for a toilet break but none knew Otim couldn’t swim 
  • Tributes poured in online after the death of the former Nottingham Forest player 
  • The lake was branded South Carolina’s ‘most deadly body of water’ in 2018

A former Nottingham Forest player who couldn’t swim drowned in a lake after his friend encouraged him to jump in the water, an inquest was told.

Derrick Otim, 24, was with friends when he died after jumping into water at Lake Keowee, South Carolina last summer.

One statement heard at the inquest stated one of Mr Otim’s friends had encouraged him to jump on ‘1, 2, 3’ – with the promising footballer going straight off the boat and into the water. 

The group had stopped in a cove and jumped off the boat to use the toilet after drinking – but none were aware that Mr Otim could not swim. 

Tributes poured in online for the former Forest academy graduate – who died at the scene despite the best efforts of paramedics. 

Derrick Otim (pictured) was just 24 when he died after his friends encouraged him to jump into water at a South Carolina cove last July

Above is Lake Keowee, South Carolina, where the former Nottingham Forest academy graduate drowned

Nottingamshire Coroners Court heard Mr Otim had been sitting with friends at the front of a boat in the South Carolina cove on July 3, 2020.

His friend had encouraged him to get into the water and hold onto the side – but was not aware that Mr Otim could not swim.

When they all rose up from the water they ‘panicked’ and ‘saw bubbles’ while Mr Otim did not reappear.

The driver of the boat told the inquest that the group had earlier been at her parents’ home and everyone had two to three beers.

They had been boating for a few hours before she pulled into the cove.

Tributes poured in from friends and former teammates online after news broke of Mr Otim’s death last year

She said she told Mr Otim to hold onto the side of the boat and that everyone began screaming for help when they realised what was happening.

A firefighter in scuba gear later located Mr Otim in 23ft of water at the bottom of the lake and medics tried advance lifesaving treatment.

Mr Otim, who left Forest in 2015, was pronounced dead at the scene in Marina Circle, South Carolina.

Gordon Clow, assistant coroner for Nottinghamshire, explained Mr Otim was unable to swim and went into the water almost immediately.

One statement heard at the inquest stated one of Mr Otim’s friends had encouraged him to jump into the water on ‘1, 2, 3’

Recording a conclusion of misadventure, Mr Clow said: ‘He was pronounced deceased, having died from drowning.’

The coroner passed on his sincere condolences to Mr Otim’s friends and family.

Speaking in March Joy Otim, described her son as ‘so loving and very intelligent’.

Mr Otim had lived with his mum in St Ann’s, Nottingham, before going to America on a scholarship for four years at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.  

He was a key part of Xavier’s football team for whom he played 70 matches, scored seven goals and registered 10 assists. 

Otim moved to America to chase his dream of becoming a pro-footballer. He played 70 matches at Xavier University, scoring seven goals and registering 10 assists

Mr Otim’s brother, Elvis, said: ‘One month before he passed away, he was making decisions in terms of where he was going to go.

‘He was going to train with the New Mexico team last year. 

‘He was making a decision whether he was going to stay in America or come back to England.’ 

Lake Keowee was branded as the ‘most deadly body of water’ in South Carolina by a 2018 report, which said 32 people had lost their lives there within 25 years.

The man-made body of water was built more than 50 years ago, and is a popular place for boating, skiing and swimming.

The Oconee County side of the lake, which reported 13 deaths between 2011 and 2019, is popular as it has two country parks, a swimming and boating area, and a rocky outcrop used for jumping into the water.

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