Third drowning at Thurmond Lake

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News 12 at 11, June 15, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- A third drowning in one month at Thurmond Lake is raising red flags, because all three men have died while swimming in what they thought were shallow waters. Park rangers say some of the dangers stem from one big thing the drought. The water levels at Thurmond Lake aren't what they used to be.

"Two or three years ago when you came out here, all this was under water. And that's where you swim to and you don't swim past that. Now it's all in the bank. So there isn't no telling what could be out there," Brian Edgar said.

This is where water once stood. But now, it's a sandy beach. Park rangers say it's a dangerous situation because of the drop-offs.

Park rangers say this yellow tube is usually floating in the water. And it's supposed to show where the swimming area is roped off. But as you can see, the water is far from it.

With the lake level down and swim areas dry. Swimmers need to use extreme caution.

"People are swimming outside of those areas and we just don't know what the terrain is under there," Chief Ranger of Recreation, Christina Westerberg said.

Now, three people have drowned at Thurmond Lake just in the last four weeks. Three men dead. Three families grieving. The latest victim, 22-year-old Edtwon Jackson of Thomson drowned Saturday night. Park rangers say he was swimming at Mallard Point at the Lake Springs recreation area.

"It's unreal. A 22-year-old drowned right out there. It's real shallow out there. I just don't see how it was possible," Edgar said.

The Columbia County EMA Dive Search and Rescue Team recovered Jackson's body in eleven feet of water. Columbia County Emergency Services says Jackson was walking in just a few feet of water when the water level dropped to about 20 feet.

"Where the waters at you don't know where the drop off's going to be. I mean you could be out there and it could be up to here. And then all of the sudden, boom! You're under water," Michael Menger said.

"There could possibly be drop-offs anywhere in the lake. And we have people swimming out there not knowing where their feet are going to land, and how deep it is beneath them," Westerberg said.

There are no lifeguards on duty at Thurmond Lake. It's swim at your own risk. Park rangers encourage you to wear a life jacket, keep an eye on each other, and be aware of the sudden drop-offs. Deeper waters have much colder temperatures that can cause cramps and swimmers panic, which is what happened to at least one of the victims this summer.

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