Official on man rescued on Ocmulgee: ‘I don’t know how he lived’

lfabian@macon.comFebruary 28, 2014 

A missing Juliette man seeking refuge on rocks along the Ocmulgee River was rescued Thursday night after four days.

“I don’t know how he lived,” said Jones County EMA Director Don Graham. “I’m not sure he would have made it another night.”

Morning lows plunged into the 20s Thursday and Friday.

Tyler Lee Perkins, 21, was high up on a bluff on the Jones County side when people living on River Mist Road in Monroe County saw him just before dark Thursday.

One of them called out to Perkins, who complained of having a hurt foot.

“He had stepped on a cactus on that side of the bank,” said Jeff McClure, one of the neighbors who phoned for help.

Perkins’ family reported him missing Tuesday after he went for a walk about 9:30 a.m. Monday and did not return, according to a Monroe County sheriff’s report.

His mother had been texting him until about 5:30 p.m. Monday.

“He made a stupid decision to inner tube down the Ocmulgee. It was a pretty day,” said Jennifer Perkins, his mother.

At some point, the inner tube broke and he lost his cellphone, she said.

About 5:30 p.m. Thursday, deputies and first responders from Monroe and Jones counties got the call someone was stranded on the river.

Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece said Perkins could be seen from the bank, but rescuers had to get to him by boat on that side of the river.

The River Rescue and Tactical Team put two vessels in the water at Pope’s Ferry and notified Macon-Bibb County firefighters to be on standby.

Jones rescuers were able to get him to safety in about 15 minutes, Graham said.

Perkins was barefoot and dressed in shorts and a red hoodie.

“He was very pale and showing all the signs of hypothermia,” Graham said. “He was very lethargic.”

Perkins was taken by ambulance to The Medical Center of Central Georgia and was released Friday.

He has some minor cuts, scrapes and bruises, his mother said.

“We’re pretty thankful that he’s home alive,” she said. “He had no food, no clothing, lost the inner tube, lost his phone and lost his way.”

The incident report states Perkins suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism characterized by difficulties in social interaction and other symptoms.

He had been off his medication for weeks, the report stated.

“He didn’t try to communicate with everybody. He was real aloof,” McClure said.

Perkins only spoke when the neighbors called out to him and asked if he needed help, he said.

Being out in the elements since Monday, including rain and sub-freezing temperatures, had taken its toll on Perkins.

“He was a whipped puppy. I’ll tell you that,” McClure said.

The rescue was the third for the Jones unit of rescuers since a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant paid for the rescue unit about three years ago, Graham said.

Federal funding paid for the department’s two boats, pickup and gear, he said.

“These boats help out tremendously,” Graham said. “Every one of these were very vital rescues.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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