Originally created 07/25/02

25-year-old drowns in Thurmond Lake



A 25-year-old Hephzibah man drowned Wednesday while swimming near Thurmond dam.

Columbia County Coroner Tommy King said he pronounced Walter James Dozier dead at about 3 p.m., two hours after emergency workers from several agencies were sent to the West Dam Recreation Area at Thurmond Lake.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Johnny Whittle said Mr. Dozier and his girlfriend had arrived at about 12:40 p.m. At about 1 p.m., witnesses told authorities, Mr. Dozier swam to a buoy about 20 yards off shore.

As he returned to the bank, he disappeared, Capt. Whittle said.

"He went underwater and never surfaced again," the captain said.

The victim's girlfriend asked another couple for help. The couple - one swimming and one on a raft - searched for Mr. Dozier until emergency personnel arrived.

Columbia County sheriff's Investigator Wynn Howard said volunteer Leah firefighters and Columbia County deputies looked for Mr. Dozier until the Columbia County Dive Team arrived.

The dive team arrived just before 2 p.m. and pulled Mr. Dozier from the water at about 2:15 p.m.

Dive team chief Mike Chambers said the firefighters and deputies looking for Mr. Dozier were swimming directly above him but lacked the equipment needed to dive deeply enough to find him.

Zack Harness, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranger, said Mr. Dozier was found about eight feet offshore in about 20 feet of water.

State Department of Natural Resources officials said Mr. Dozier's drowning was the first of the year on the Georgia side of the lake. There were three drownings in 2001 on the Georgia side.

Swim Safely

  • Never swim alone or in unsupervised places
  • Remember that open water usually has limited visibility, and currents are often unpredictable
  • Never drink alcohol before or during swimming
  • Check the water depth before entering
  • Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Reach Louie Villalobos at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109, or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.