UPDATED: Teen drowns on Savannah River

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News 12 at 11 o'clock, May 30, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga.---A day on the river turns deadly as an Augusta teenager drowns while swimming with a friend.

15-year old Stephen Fishel drowned while swimming to a sand bar. He was pronounced dead around 5:30 this evening. A friend says he went under sometime between 1 and 2 o'clock.

The 15-year old was with a friend when they jumped in the river, fully clothed, and tried to swim to a nearby island...but one of them didn't make it.

It was a beautiful day to be out on the river. School is out for the summer and plenty of people spent the day out in the sun. But for one family the first weekend of the summer ended in tragedy.

Witnesses say they knew something was wrong right away. "When we put the boat in we heard there was a drowning and we left and came back about an hour later and they had the boats in the water searching for him," says George Inglett.

Officials say around one o'clock Fishel and another friend jumped in on the Georgia side of the river and were swimming to a sand bar island near the North Augusta boat ramp when Fishel disappeared.

"From what we heard they were all out there swimming and they thought he was fine and all of a sudden they turned around and he was gone under and they never saw him again," says Inglett.

Four hours later, he was found dead. 15-year old Fishel was found fully clothed with boots on. It's the first drowning death of 2009.

Family members told the coroner Fishel knew how to swim. Witnesses say they've never thought of the Savannah River as dangerous.

"It's calm out there, it's calm out there where they swim at. I don't know if he was just tired from swimming from one side or the other. It don't look like it's dangerous down there," says Fishel.

But deaths like this remind us of the dangers out there as we head into summer.

The teenager's father, Richard Fishel, is a former Richmond County Deputy and currently a Trooper for the Georgia State Patrol.

The coroner says the body will be sent to the GBI crime lab in Augusta to determine the exact cause and manner of death.

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