Columbia County man drowns in pond

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July 7, 2006

A Columbia County man drowned overnight in his own front yard, in just four feet of water.

25-year-old Billy Brunty, Jr. of the 200 block of Old North Belair Road turned up missing at 3:30 Thursday morning, July 6. He was found drowned almost 13 hours later.

Rescue divers say murky ponds like the one in Brunty's yard are especially dangerous because you never know what's beneath the water.

There's no visibility, so the dive team has to search with their hands. Here's how Chase Abbott of the Dive and Rescue Team describes the murky waters.

"Eerie. You see turtles, fish, fishing lines, can't see, it's just mud."

And this is how he found 25-year-old Billy Brunty Jr.: "Floating on top, my flipper hit the back of him. I thought it was sticks, and I went down, and there he was."

Officers say Brunty and a friend went swimming in the pond outside his Grovetown home around 3 a.m. The friend later called for help.

According to Abbott, Brunty drowned in water just four feet deep.

Pond water typically has an uneven, muddy bottom. There are usually plants, which hinder visibility, and the hidden danger of things like fishing line. If you were to fall in, it would be hard to see anything.

"Fishing line, debris, trash...pretty much anything you can throw in a pond will be there," Abbott says.

The news was especially hard to take since a drowning accident took Brunty's father and two other family members 24 years ago to the day.

The family was on vacation while Brunty was home alone. They got back in town shortly after Abbott pulled Brunty from the pond.

Officers have determined it was an accidental drowning. A family member tells us the private viewing and memorial will be in the next few days.