Jeremias Perez-Pelico was the ninth person whose life was claimed by Lake Lanier this year. The 16-year old from Marietta drowned at about 2 p.m. Sunday on a visit with friends and family to West Bank Park in Forsyth County.
"He was there with family members and decided to go swimming," said Forsyth County Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Huggins. "His brother and some friends went out to try to help the brother but weren’t able to do so. (Perez-Pelico) went under and did not come back up."
Perez-Pelico, a native of Guatemala, was the fourth drowning victim in Forsyth County since May. He was wearing pants and a T-shirt when he drowned.
Huggins said Perez-Pelico’s clothing could have contributed to his death because "pants become waterlogged and pull you under."
Forsyth County Coroner Lauren McDonald said this was not the first case of a drowning victim wearing dangerous swim attire.
"There was one situation with a victim who was floating on a piece of Styrofoam and had his work boots on," he said. "You’ve got to be smart about your environment as far as your clothing, your ability to swim and always having someone to help you in case an incident does happen."
McDonald said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called after the Forsyth County Fire Department dive team recovered the body. An autopsy was declined, and Perez-Pelico’s body was released to a Marietta funeral home.
Because of the drought, water levels have steadily decreased in Lake Lanier, resulting in drop-offs. Perez-Pelico was found nearly 30 feet offshore and 12 feet under water, according to the county fire department.
"The way the witnesses said he went under, he could have slipped or hit a pocket under the water that was part of a small drop-off," said McDonald.
Because of the drop-offs and holes caused by the drought, Huggins strongly recommended no one swim in non-beach areas.
"Even those who swim in areas that contain beaches need to be very careful because of low water levels," he said. "The signs are often ignored and people attempt to swim farther out than they should."
Lake Lanier drownings this year are nearing the level of 1999, when 11 were reported. There were seven drownings in 2006 and only three in 2005.
Jackie Joseph, president of the Lake Lanier Association, said the Army Corps of Engineers has assigned rangers to teach water safety, but more needs to be done.
"When the lake is low like this, you basically walk out and think you have a nice sandy beach in front of you, but all of a sudden, it may drop 15 feet," she said. "These are the issues I don’t know how we go about addressing."
The Corps could not be reached for comment. Monday was Columbus Day, a federal holiday.