An Effingham County man died on the Ogeechee River on Sunday after witnesses say he jumped from a bridge.
William Young, 33, of Springfield was swimming with a group of people and did not surface after jumping from Steel Bridge at Highway 119 on the Effingham-Bulloch county line, investigators said.
The Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office was called at 5:25 p.m. and crews searched for nearly two hours before Young’s body was found in the river by Department of Natural Resources rangers at approximately 7:10 p.m.
No foul play is suspected, investigators said, but the BCSO continues to investigate and an autopsy of Young’s body is scheduled for Tuesday morning at the GBI’s Coastal Regional Crime Lab.
“It appears to be an accident,” Chief Deputy Jared Akins said. “There is nothing to indicate it was anything other than, ‘It’s a hot day and we’re going to cool off in the river, and I’m going to jump from the bridge.’”
Bulloch County typically has “one or two drownings a year” on the Ogeechee River, Akins said. The risk is greater this year due to the spate of recent rainstorms that raised water levels and strengthened the current.
“It could be he got caught up in the current, it could be he hit some kind of obstruction,” Akins said. “We really don’t know and probably won’t know until the autopsy.”
The Ogeechee River is at 8.9 feet — just below flood stage — on its meter in Eden, according to Effingham County Emergency Management Agency Director Ed Myrick.
More importantly, Myrick said, is how rapidly the river is flowing. The Ogeechee’s discharge rate Monday was 2,920 cubic feet per second, well below the peak of 9,000 during last month’s seemingly-daily deluges, but still a rapid rate.
“It’s coming down now, but even (2,920) is still fast,” Myrick said. “That undertow, you don’t realize how quick it is until it starts taking you out.”
An advisory the EMA issued in July for people to stay off all waterways in Effingham remains in effect, Myrick said. Also, Myrick and Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson urged people never to jump from bridges at the landings.
But, as Myrick pointed out, no one is supposed to swim in the Ogeechee at all because the DNR does not classify the river for that use.
“Technically you’re not supposed to swim in the Ogeechee River in Effingham County anyway,” Myrick said. “A lot of people just don’t know that.”
Young’s death appears to be an accident, but it remains under investigation by the Bulloch County Sheriff’sOffice. Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Walter Deal at (912) 764-1788 or submit an anonymous tip to email@example.com.
Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in Young’s death, Akins said, but “we just don’t know until the blood work comes back.”