With visibility shrinking to 2 to 3 inches in the water around dusk, crews planned to stop until morning, as jagged stumps and tree moss hindered their efforts in the 250-acre lake 12 miles north of Augusta, said Burnettown Police Chief David Paul Smith, whose department is handling the investigation.
Smith said park patrons lost sight of two men and a woman in a part of the pond that’s 75 feet from the park’s marked swimming area about 5 p.m.
The witnesses told officials they noticed the two men – identified only as a 21-year-old white man and 22-year-old black man – wrestling with each other three times, with the first two rounds ending in laughter. The woman was reportedly dating one of the men.
The third time, however, the men began to “yell for help and struggle to survive in the water,” said Smith. The men had met just hours earlier, he said.
“Two patrons, one entering the water from the bank, the other from the park’s swimming area, attempted to help the victims, but unfortunately they were only able to rescue one,” Smith said. “The other remains missing, but there is no confirmed sighting of him going underwater.”
The rescued victim, the 21-year-old white man, was transported to an Augusta hospital, but Smith did not know which one. He described the man as being “in critical condition,” Smith said.
The black man is a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Graniteville. A dozen members from the congregation gathered at the park to support the family and pray for him.
“This family is in a time of need and we want to be there for them,” said Tanya Gilmore, a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church and friend of the missing victim’s family.