‘We’re devastated’

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Family, friends and co-workers are mourning the loss of a veteran Alabama Power employee who drowned in an accident at Mitchell Dam yesterday.

Alabama Power announced that Robert Lynn Courtney, 52, a hydro journeyman at Mitchell Dam, died Tuesday morning in a tragic accident at the hydro generating plant near Verbena.

Courtney, who lived in Verbena, was a 35-year employee of Alabama Power and had worked at Mitchell for 20 years.

He is survived by his wife Retha, their children and other family members. He pastored West End Church of Christ in Clanton.

Information about services for Courtney will be announced later.

Authorities were called to the scene at 10:22 yesterday morning, and four divers from the Chilton County Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit found the victim’s body at 11:43 a.m.

Chilton County Deputy Coroner Awlahjaday Agee pronounced the victim dead at 12:18 p.m. Agee confirmed that the cause of death was drowning.

Verbena and East Chilton fire departments responded to the scene.

Alabama Power spokesperson Jan Ellis said officials have launched a full investigation into the incident.

“We are aware of an employee fatality at Mitchell Dam, and in deference to the family please allow us to investigate the incident,” Ellis said. “We are still trying to determine what happened. Anytime there is a loss in our Alabama Power family, our employees are devastated. The family of the employee has been notified and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Ellis also said the company would be cooperating with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the investigation.

Mitchell Dam is located on the Coosa River and is on the border of Chilton and Coosa counties. The dam was not generating electricity at the time of the incident.