It was a deadly day in the water Sunday, with two separate drowning incidents at Lake Lanier resulting in the death of three, including a father trying to save his son.
Mark McKinnon, public affairs officer with the Department of Natural Resources, confirmed Leonel Torres, 50, drowned alongside his son Elton, 15. Hall emergency officials had previously stated Elton Torres chased a ball into the water and began struggling.
His father, who had a birthday coming up on June 23 according to information from DNR, went in after him. Neither surfaced, and they were recovered around 30 to 45 minutes after first disappearing around 2 p.m.
Torres and his son lived in Lilburn. Officials said the two victims were recovered near Three Sisters Island in Forsyth County; they were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center where they were pronounced dead.
The second incident occurred at 6:22 p.m. at Old Federal Campground Park in Hall County. Beto Silva, 20, was walking on a sandbar to a nearby island when he slipped into deeper water and did not resurface.
According to Scott Cagle with Hall County Fire and Emergency Services, Silva’s brother attempted to rescue him.
McKinnon said Silva lived in Peoria, Ill., though his brother told officials he lives in Gainesville part of the year.
Following Sunday’s incidents, safety officials are urging everyone to wear life jackets and to be aware of surroundings when by the water.
“As uncomfortable as it might be, it’s kind of like a bike helmet,” said Lt. Beverley Walker, fire and life safety educator with Hall County Fire Services. “You have to put it on and you have to make sure it fits.”
Walker said many people don’t understand the differences between swimming in a lake versus a pool, and that lack of preparation can lead to precarious situations.
“(In a pool) the bottom is level and you’ve got markers that show you what the feet are,” she said. “You can see the bottom of the pool. It’s a more controlled environment than the lake.”
Walker also said bystanders should not attempt to help someone they see struggling, citing the maxim “throw, don’t go.” She suggested trying to find a towel, pool noodle or some other item the person would be able to grab.
Elsewhere in the region, a fourth drowning occurred late Sunday evening in the Chattahoochee River in Fulton County. The male victim’s name has not been released.