Rescuer speaks out after near drowning on Chattahoochee River

Rescuer speaks out after near drowning on Chattahoochee River

A close call for a man in Columbus this weekend, as a team of White Water Express employees saved him from drowning in the Chattahoochee River. On Tuesday one of the rescuers spoke to News Leader 9.

During summer months, drownings peak, however, this year the Hooch has seen a drown-free streak.

Administrators with the Muscogee County coroners office say last summer, from Memorial Day in May to Labor Day in September, there were six drownings in our area. This summer, no drownings so far, thanks in part to vigilant water rafting instructors like those who rescued someone this weekend.

"I noticed a sphere in the water, floating up and down, it would go under water, pop back up. I paddled over to check out what it was, and it turns out to be a person," said 20-year-old raft guide Taylor Stephens.

Stephens and other employees of White Water Express sprang into action on Saturday to save a man who had fallen into the Chattahoochee River.

With no flotation device on, the strong current was too much for him. Stephens and others pulled the man to safety, returning him to his family.

"Luckily he didn't swallow too much water, and we paddled him back to the island to his family, and he was fine," said Stephens.

It was a happy ending that wasn't the case for six locals last year who drowned during the summer. So far, 2016 has been drown-free for the Chattahoochee River in the Columbus area. Some point to the watchful eyes of those out on the river every day.

"He couldn't talk because most of the time he was underwater and he was really getting worked. It could have been a lot worse if we hadn't had guys out there," said Stephens.

First responders say it's important everyone wear a life jacket when in the river, and keep a safe distance from the water if you're not.

The White Water Express team did not get the name of the man they saved, but they do say they find people in distress without a life jacket more often than they should.

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