By Beth Lawrence

Sylva Police are investigating a possible accidental drowning after responding to a Sunday call for assistance on Scotts Creek.

SPD was dispatched to the scene shortly after 1:30 p.m. concerning an unconscious person on the bank of the creek along Scotts Creek Road, Chief Chris Hatton said.

Officers arrived to find Casey Dean Wood, 44, of Sylva deceased at the edge of the creek.

“SPD investigators responded and began an investigation into the circumstances of this death,” Hatton said. “At this time, there is no evidence of foul play.”

Investigators believe Wood went to the creek to fish. He had fishing tackle, including a baited hook, with him, and his vehicle was found nearby.

Wood was found partially in the water, but investigators could not officially attribute his death to drowning.

The incident was reported by County Commissioner Boyce Deitz who was mowing grass when he spotted Wood’s body on the embankment.

“I own a farm just above there,” Deitz said. “I was mowing a pasture up there, and when I got through, I said, ‘I’m going to go down there and mow.’”

The “there” Dietz referred to is a 1/10 mile stretch of the road that is rarely mowed. Deitz made a pass through the area and turned around.

“On that second swath, I looked into the creek … and I saw something laying in the creek right in the edge of the creek,” he said. “I thought it was where somebody had thrown some trash in there. I was irritated about it.”

Deitz finished the swath and turned around to complete the job. It was then he began to realize what he initially took as trash was a person. He sat debating with himself a few moments about what he was really seeing, he said. Then he saw something that convinced him that it was a human being.

“Right when I was starting to pull off, I looked and there was a fishing pole laying there,” Deitz said. “When I saw that fishing pole I was afraid something was wrong.”

He backed the tractor up, looked closely and confirmed that he was seeing a person. Deitz drove back to his truck and called 911.

An autopsy was conducted Monday at Harris Regional Hospital. Without the official report being released, Hatton expects the cause of death to be listed as a drowning.

“This conclusion comes after comparing the findings at the scene and the information learned in the autopsy,” he said. “The hearts of Sylva Police Department go out to his family, friends and co-workers.”

Wood had worked in housekeeping for five years at Skyland Care Center in Sylva. 

In a Facebook post, Skyland said Wood “was dearly loved by all the residents.”