Warner Robins man reported missing in Ocmulgee River

awomack@macon.comApril 1, 2013 

Rescuers called off their search of the Ocmulgee River late Monday for a man authorities said went missing after going for an afternoon swim.

“The sun is down, the current is strong and the conditions will not allow them to continue ... they’re about to wrap up and will return around 8 or 9 (a.m. Tuesday), said Bibb County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Sean DeFoe.

Rescuers started searching for Aaron Cross some time after 3:30 p.m. The search was called off around 8:20 p.m.

“When you get out here too late, conditions get more dangerous,” DeFoe said.

Cross jumped into the muddy water and swam about halfway across the Ocmulgee River before he couldn’t go any farther.

He yelled for help, saying he was freezing.

Cross, 24, of Warner Robins, was in trouble.

His friend, Allen Higgs, jumped in and tried to help, but he wasn’t able to pull Cross to shore.

Adena Davidson watched as both men struggled in the swift current just upstream of the Amerson River Park pavilion.

Cross disappeared into the water twice and reappeared.

The third time, he never came up, she said.

Macon-Bibb County firefighters used boats and scanned the river from Spring Street upstream toward the park. A dive team and other emergency workers joined in the search, said James Wallace, a Macon-Bibb County Fire battalion chief.

Preparing to move

Cross, who celebrated his birthday Thursday, was planning to move out of state.

He wanted to swim in the river one last time, said Eric Dees, Cross’s friend and Higgs’ brother.

The three men and their girlfriends drove to Macon as a way of getting out of the house on a warm day.

Dees said Cross dove into the water and yelled for help.

“At first, we thought he was just playing,” he said. Monday was April Fool’s Day.

“He kept saying he was frozen and couldn’t move,” Dees said.

Higgs jumped in to help and moved Cross closer to shore, “but he was dead weight,” Dees said.

Firefighters led Higgs to an ambulance Monday afternoon, accompanied by Dees, while emergency workers searched for Cross. Higgs clutched his chest and had a bloody shin.

Davidson, also of Warner Robins, said she’s a frequent visitor to the park. Monday afternoon she’d brought her children for a picnic during their spring break.

Lots of people were in the water this time last year, when the weather was warmer, she said.

But with the cooler water temperature and current, Cross didn’t have much of a chance.

“There was no hope for him when he got out there,” Davidson said.

Telegraph staff writer Harold Goodridge contributed to this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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