COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Crews continued their search Tuesday after a man presumably drowned Sunday night below the Lake Oliver dam in Columbus, Georgia.
The two were near a Georgia Power dam when sirens went off. Georgia Power deploys sirens to alert people to changing water levels; however a language barrier may have prevented the swimmers from understanding the warning.
“I don’t really think they understood what the sirens meant and they continued to swim,” Bryan Watson, Battalion Chief for Columbus Fire and EMS said. “Once the water was released, it appears one of them got distressed in the water. The brother went in and was unable to reach him. He was able to get back out, his brother was not.”
Officials suspended the search on Monday around 4 p.m. due to significant weather moving to the area and because Georgia Power released more water out of the dam. The search will resume on Tuesday at 8 a.m., and crews are hoping to recover the body as soon as possible. For boaters and swimmers, this is a reminder of the water’s deceivingly swift current.
“Certainly be weary because water conditions are about to change depending on if they’re generating power or not around the dams,” Gregory Castelli, Game Warden with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said. “That can happen…. there’s a schedule that you can actually find online but when you hear the sirens, the water’s going to change.”
In the meantime, officials say this serves as a reminder for folks to exercise caution when heading out into the water this summer.
“Take extra safety precautions on every part of the Chattahoochee River,” John Shull, Fire Marshall with Columbus Fire and EMS said. “Do not treat any part of it as if you were absolutely safe. Wear a life vest on any part of the Chattahoochee River… certainly in the Columbus area.”
Tomorrow, News 3 will have a reporter at the 10 a.m. news conference with updates.