Men rescued from flooded Ocmulgee, trail closed

alopez@macon.comDecember 29, 2013 

Macon-Bibb County Fire Department officials staged a water rescue Sunday night from the public boat ramp at Spring Street Park to help two stranded boaters on the Ocmulgee River.


Firefighters rescued two men stranded on a 14 foot jon boat Sunday night on the Ocmulgee River past Riverwood International Way.

The boaters drifted for about four hours before Macon-Bibb County Fire Department rescuers reached them at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Both men were said to be in good condition and rescuers wrapped up the operation shortly after 11 p.m.

More than a half dozen emergency responders stationed themselves at the public boat ramp at Spring Street Park during the rescue effort that began around sunset.

The fiancee of one of the stranded boaters waited nervously for news at the Spring Street landing. She declined to identify the men on the boat prior to notifying their parents.

“I received a call from him around 5:20 saying his motor quit working and that he is being taken down river,” she said.

The woman, who identified herself as Jenna, called 911 shortly after 5:30 p.m. when she lost contact with her fiance.

Though a Macon-Bibb County Fire Department rescue boat was in the water by 5:45 p.m., flood waters complicated its mission, said Capt. Ronnie Napier.

“When the river rises there is a cable that runs across the river and our boat can’t get up under that cable,” Napier said.

About the time the stranded boater called his fiancee Sunday, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the river in Macon. By 7 p.m., the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail was closed due to the river’s level according to a tweet by Mayor Robert Reichert.

“It’s crazy to get out there when the river is like that,” Napier said.

The river crested at 20.49 feet in Macon at about 1 a.m. Monday and is slowly receding.

The Ocmulgee is not expected to fall below flood stage of 18 feet until Tuesday evening.

Due to the swollen banks, the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail closed Sunday night and is expected to remain closed until after the New Year's Day holiday, according to a news release from the City of Macon.

Sunday’s water rescue is the second in Bibb County in less than a week. On Monday, a man and three juveniles were rescued from the river after their boat sank.

Jenna said she has swam in the Ocmulgee her whole life and knows that it is dangerous.

“People don’t realize it but there’s whirpools up under the water that you can’t really see so if you get pulled into it you’re going to get sucked under and you’re going to drown. There’s at least two or three deaths a year from this river,” she said.

“When it rains the current gets really really strong,” Jenna said. “People just don’t realize how dangerous this place can be.”

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