NEW DETAILS: It was a fisherman who found the body of drowned man

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Saturday, June 1, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT)-- On most days, a lake day at Wildwood Park is a treat for families like Donna Jones.

"My little one is three," Donna Jones said. "His name is Austin and he loves being here."

Donna says it can be hard to relax with a 3-year-old full of energy.

"He likes to swim and he tries to go a little further out than what he's supposed to," Jones said.

It's even more scary after hearing someone drowned here just yesterday.

"I was shocked to be honest. I didn't know what to think," Jones said. "It just made us be even more careful with the little one."

Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Fire Rescue, Dive Team, Georgia DNR and the Army Crop of Engineers rushed to Wildwood Park after reports of drowning.

People told police they saw a man swim out to his boat, go under and never come back up.

"Witnesses say that his pontoon boat had left the shore, drifted off and they had docked it to go take a picnic lunch," Cassidy Harris, Columbia County PIO said. "He noticed that it had drifted off and he was swimming off to try and get his boat."

Ronnie McGruder came back up nearly 20 hours later. In the day leading up to that lifeless moment, crews searched for hours. Six boats with sonar equipment scanned the waters while 12 divers searched under.

But investigators say it was a fisherman nearby that found the body.

"A fisherman that was a little ways off, not far from where the dive boats were, actually located the victim with his boat," Harris said. "The victim had resurfaced."

For mom's like Donna, it's a reminder to keep a close eye on her surroundings and an even closer eye on the little ones.

"Make sure they always have their swimmies on, their life jacket, stuff like that," Jones said. "If you don't, you never know what's going to happen."


COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT)-- By 10 o'clock Saturday morning, a nearby fisherman came upon the body of the man who drowned the day before.

Columbia County officials confirmed to News 12 while on scene this morning, Ronnie McGruder was the drowning victim at Wildwood Park.

Investigators have not determined the factors which may have contributed to the drowning but witnesses told police  they saw the 60-year-old swimming out to get his lose boat. 

Rescue dive teams, Columbia County Sheriff's Office and Department of Natural Resources officials went well into Friday night searching for McGruder.

The investigating is ongoing.

More details tonight on News 12.

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