UPDATE: Cause of death released for 23-year-old found in Savannah River

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Friday, July 27, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- News 12 has received word on the official cause of death for the 23-year-old woman who was found in the Savannah River.

According to the Coroner's Office, Rebecca Hagler's cause of death was accidental drowning.

Toxicology reports are still pending. It will take about 10 weeks for those to come back.


News 12 at 6 o'clock / Saturday, July 21, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A 23-year-old woman is dead after deputies say she fell from train trestles into the Savannah River early Saturday morning. This just down from where hours later Augusta Southern Nationals boat races were to begin.

News 12's Laura Warren says some spectators arrived with heavy hearts.

Rebecca Hagler's body was pulled out of the water just hours before thousands arrived to the Savannah River for the races.

"We generally have about 25,000 spectators down here and then we have racers from over 25 states every year," said Race Chairman Dayton Sherrouse.

Thousands are in town -- all expecting to see the boat races begin at 9 a.m., but a drowning just upstream from the races nearly delayed the event.

"You know it's unfortunate, but luckily everything got cleared up in time and didn't delay the start of the race at all," Sherrouse said.

Witnesses say the victim was walking on the train trestles across from the 5th Street bridge around 3 a.m. That's when they say she tried to climb the ladder on the edge of the trestle, slipped and fell.

"They had a lot of our security people and dive people out last night trying to find her," Sherrouse said.

The 23-year-old was a 2007 graduate from Lakeside High School. One of her brothers is serving in Afghanistan and was told the terrible news this morning.

Even though the sounds of the boats drowned out most of the background noise, many of the spectators had the victim's family in their thoughts.

"I feel sorry for the family though, for the loss, 'cause that's just hard to hear, ya know," said longtime racegoer Jeremy Best.

"I feel sorry for them, too, and we said a prayer for them this morning when we heard it on the news," said spectator Kaila Freeman.

Still, the races went on without a hitch. Many weren't even aware of the tragedy that had unfolded just a little ways up the river.

"That's a horrible thing. Nobody likes to hear a thing like that. Unfortunately, 99 percent of the spectators that come in here today won't know that, and our job is to put on a show for everybody so we're gonna do what we gotta do. I do feel sorry for the family and loved ones of that person, though. That's awful," admitted Daryl Ehrlich, one of the drag boat drivers.

As for now, the drowning is being ruled an accident. Investigators think alcohol played a factor in this death, but they are waiting on toxicology results to be sure.

We were able to find an online blog of Hagler's. Along with being outdoors and hiking, she also listed "jumping off of bridges" as one of her hobbies.


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Richmond County coroner confirms the name of the 23-year-old drowning victim is Rebecca Lloyd Hagler.

Hagler lived in North Augusta, and sources say she was a 2007 graduate of Lakeside High School.

Investigators say they think alcohol played a factor in her death. Toxicology results are still pending.

The drowning occurred near the starting line of the Southern Nationals boat race, but divers were able to recover her body before the event began at 9 a.m.

Initial report

AUGUSTA, Ga.-- Richmond County deputies confirm a woman in her 20s was found in the Savannah River.

Dispatch received a call at 3:28 a.m. Saturday that two witnesses saw a woman fall from the train trestles near the 5th Street Bridge in Augusta.

The witnesses say she was attempting to climb a ladder on the trestles when she slipped and fell.

Divers recovered her body around 7 a.m. Saturday.

The woman's family has not been reached yet, so her name is not available at this time.

The coroner says her body will be sent to the GBI crime lab for an autopsy.

This case is still under investigation. Stay with us as we continue to follow this developing story.