Upstate fisherman, missing for days, thankful to be alive

South Carolina News

Jeff Griffith (Source: Laurie Griffith Jones, Jeff Griffith’s sister)

GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — Jeffrey Griffith is finally home after he went missing in Oconee County over the weekend. Rescue teams and family members searched for days, before he was found on Monday morning.

“It was traumatic a little bit. I was just worried about my family. I was just worried about them not knowing where I was,” Griffith said.

Griffith went on a one day fishing trip alone at the Chattoga River near the Oconee State Park.

“On Friday, I had a day off of work, and it’s a good time of year. I love to go fly fishing. I’ve been doing it for a very long time I love to go to the mountains, the Chattooga River. One of my fishing spots that I go to. And I wanted to go up, do a little fishing that day. The weather was nice and I go to my spot off of Highway 107, Big Bend Road. I know of a trail that goes down, there’s a nice fishing hole down there and I started working my way downstream, as I normally do,” Griffith said.

Griffith said suddenly, something unexpected happened, while trying to cast in a trout.

“I saw a fish out in the water, how trout they raise up and kind of kiss the top of the water, so I waded out in the water toward it so I can get close enough to it to cast to it, and I was working my way out. I was in about thigh deep water and I tripped a little bit on a rock and I tried to catch myself and my left foot went down and kind of got wedged between two rocks and I started to go down and my body kind of twisted, and it kind of twisted my knee. I fell in the water, the current started pushing me downstream. I was kind of out in the middle of the river,” Griffith said.

Griffith then went into survival mode.

“I just wanted to get to the shore as quickly as I could, because I knew downstream, there were some more dangerous areas,” Griffith said.

For days, Griffith’s goal was to make it to a trail and get out alive.

“But the terrain was such, and my leg was hurting. It was very slow going and as it got closer to dark, I knew that I was going to have to spend the night out there,” Griffith said. “And as it got close to dark, I started going through my head what equipment I had with me. I always have some survival gear with me. I had a headlamp, some water proof matches,” Griffith said. “I had a little bit of food with me. I had two water bottles, and I was trying to conserve my food and water at that point.”

He also had an emergency blanket that kept him warm.

“The rain. It was raining so hard, and I was starting to get weak and I was out of food at that point. I went pretty much all day Sunday without any food,” Griffith said. “And Sunday night when it started raining, I just huddled under my emergency blanket and kind of wrapped up in it and just waited for daylight”

As he waited for Monday, Griffith said his body grew weaker, but he gained strength through his faith.

“I thought I heard voices, not like people calling out but just like whispers, conversations, and I think what I was hearing were all the prayers being offered up for me,” Griffith said.

Monday morning, he finally saw light at the end of the tunnel.

“At about 10:30, is when I saw someone upstream on the other side, and I tried to get their attention, but they weren’t close enough to me,” Griffith said. “I called out, they saw me. There were three people. And they asked who are you, and I said, I’m Jeff.” And there was a lady there and she said where do you work? Which I thought was a strange question, and I said, “I work at Hobby Lobby,” he said. “And she said it’s Melissa, I work there too,” Griffith said. “And I couldn’t believe it that someone that I work with was out there looking for me,” he said. “I was just relieved. Pure relief. All of the adrenaline just kind of rush out of my body, and I just kind of sat down and I was just overjoyed.”

While he said it was an experience, he hopes his journey can give people hope.

“I was thinking to myself, you have to adapt, you have to overcome the situation. you have to stay positive. You can’t give up,” Griffith said.

Now he credits many people, including first responders, his family, and co-workers for helping him come home alive.

“I just want to thank everyone that came out and looked for me,” Griffith said. “I don’t know where I would be,” he added. “Very thankful. Very blessed. I mean it was an ordeal, I’m not going to lie. I had some questions about the outcome, but I never gave up hope. I knew that if people knew that I was out there, they were going to come for me. And I also knew that if I had to get out on my own, I was going to do whatever it took for me to get back home.”

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