LATEST: Teenager drowns in Savannah River

The teenage son of a Georgia State Patrol officer drowned while swimming with a friend Saturday afternoon.

 

Stephen Fishel was pronounced dead at 5:33 p.m. nearly a mile from the Hammonds Ferry boat ramp in North Augusta, said Richmond County Deputy Coroner Johnny McDonald. He recently graduated from Tutt Middle School and was going to begin his freshman year this fall at Westside High School, according to a Tutt Middle employee.

The 15-year-old and a friend were swimming toward an area in the Savannah River called “Goat Island” around 1:30 p.m., Mr. McDonald said. Mr. Fishel began to swim back in the opposite direction and eventually went under before he reached his destination.

Richmond County Fire Department and Dive Team spent hours searching for Stephen’s body.

It was originally believed that another person had drowned near the Boathouse Center on Riverfront Drive, but Mr. McDonald confirmed that the family had gathered there while waiting for news about the teenager.

His father, State Patrol Officer Richard Fishel, was one of the many people at the boathouse Saturday evening.

Ethie Kulling, a Tutt Middle assistant librarian, said the news of Stephen’s death will hit hard teachers and staff at the school he recently graduated from.

“Any teacher from Tutt will tell you he was a wonderful boy,” she said late Saturday. “I never heard him say one bad word to anyone.”

Stephen had a strong faith in God and had hoped to one day join the military, Mrs. Kulling said.

“He really touched our hearts,” she said. “We’ll miss him.”

His body will be sent to the GBI Crime Lab in Atlanta for an autopsy this morning.

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