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A 19-year-old commercial diver drowned at the Mill Creek power plant in Louisville on Thursday while inspecting an underwater pump intake in the Ohio River. 

Those who knew Jaxxyn Lee Wood say he was fearless, kind and a gifted swimmer who took to the water from a young age. 

“He loved that job, he really did, we’d always tell him to be careful, but Jaxxyn was born and destined to do whatever he wanted to do,” said Tasha Singleton, Wood’s former dive coach at Danville High School. 

Louisville Gas and Electric hired Bulldog Diving, a commercial diving crew out of Rockport, Ind., to perform an inspection on a pump intake for the Mill Creek power plant, said LG&E spokesperson Natasha Collins. Coal-fired power plants need massive volumes of water for things like cooling plant equipment. 

The diving crew lost audio contact with Wood Thursday around 12:30 p.m. while he was inspecting the area around the pump intake for debris. The pump was not in service at the time. 

Emergency officials were called in for a rescue. A second commercial diving crew hired by LG&E recovered Wood’s body around 9:15 p.m. Thursday evening. 

Louisville Deputy Coroner Kim Smith confirmed the cause of death was consistent with drowning, though a full autopsy still needs to be completed, she said. 

Mill Creek suspended operations from 2 p.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday morning. 

“This is a tragic loss. Our hearts go out to the diver’s family, friends and co-workers. Our contractors are all part of our LG&E and KU family and this incident is difficult for all of our employees,” Collins said in an email. 

LG&E is working with the state as they complete an investigation into the incident. 

A ‘Fearless’ Love For the Water

Wood was the youngest of 11 children, and people noticed his affinity for swimming when he was as young as 4 years old. 

“He would run and jump and flip and dive and twist and do all this stuff that 10-year-old-kids wouldn’t and couldn’t do,” said John Anderson, a lifeguard at the time. “So from a very young age, he kind of had a love of the water.” 

When Wood was just 12 years old, he saved his family from a house fire. Wood was up late playing video games when he caught the scent of something burning. A faulty ice-maker had caught fire and sent part of the house up in flames, Anderson said. 

“I will always remember him as a hero,” he said. “That’s absolutely what he was from a young age.”

Anderson returned to Danville as a swim coach just as Wood was entering the seventh grade. He remembered Wood from the neighborhood and recruited him to join the swim and dive team. 

Where other divers would give up, Wood would dig in. If he messed up a dive and smacked against the water, Wood would take a couple minutes to catch his breath and try it again, Anderson said. 

“I just keep going back to him being fearless,” Wood said. 

Wood holds the school record in men’s one-meter diving, said Singleton, his former dive coach.

Singleton says he had natural talent but, more than that, he worked hard to hone his gifts and went on to be the highest scoring member of the dive team, as well as a good teammate. 

Singleton also remembers him as a magnetic leader with a kind and positive attitude. 

“Our new divers learned more about diving from Jaxxyn than they did from the actual coaches,” Singleton said.  

Singleton and Anderson say that Wood went onto work in a career in commercial diving with one of his brothers. WFPL News reached out to Bulldog Diving, but the person who answered the phone declined to comment. 

“He really had such a strong will to survive and to do big things, to be a great big hero in everybody’s eyes,” Singleton said. 

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.