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Second Macon drowning victim identified

Authorities Monday identified a Macon man as the second drowning victim in the Ocmulgee River.

The victim was identified as Gary Hutto, 47, of 3779 Dorothy Drive in Macon.

Hutto was the second drowning victim Sunday in the Ocmulgee River. Earlier that day, Michael Thomas Hill, 22, of Tribble Road in Peach County, drowned near the Otis Redding Bridge about 3 p.m., Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.

The drownings are not related, authorities said.

Bibb sheriff’s deputy Sean Defoe said Hutto was part of a social gathering at the Bond Swamp part of the river Sunday night. Hutto was walking on a sandbar when he fell into the water and into a deep drop in the river, Defoe said.

The other four people with Hutto tried searching for him but were unable to find him. Rescue teams from the sheriff’s office, the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources searched the area for several hours, but had to call off the search because of poor visibility, Defoe said.

The search resumed early Monday morning and Hutto’s remains were found about 9:55 a.m. about 30 feet from the sandbar he was crossing, Defoe said.

Hill was one of three men who were wading in the water, Jones said.

“One of the gentlemen went under the water and was unable to swim,” said Jones, who added the death appeared to be accidental.

Hill entered the river at the steps at Gateway Park. When he disappeared under the water, witnesses called for help.

Rescue workers found Hill’s body under the bridge about 90 minutes later, officials said.

Ronald DeWitt, 60, said he tried to rescue Hill. DeWitt, a Navy veteran trained in lifesaving, said he often swims in the Ocmulgee and was just coming out of the water when Hill and two other men were going in.

DeWitt didn’t know Hill, but had seen him swimming in the river a week earlier.

“They came up to me and asked me where was the deepest part of the water,” DeWitt said. “I told them there around the post,” he said, indicating one of the large concrete pillars that supports the bridge. “I told them to be careful, because if they weren’t careful they’d get sucked in.”

DeWitt said he went up to higher ground to dry off, and “somebody up on the bridge said, ‘Somebody call 911, somebody’s drowning!’ ”

“I went down to try to get him and I got caught up in a riptide and I pulled myself out,” he said. “I saw the bubbles and I thought I still had a chance to get him. I went down again and I didn’t feel anything.”

Jones said autopsies on both men would be performed today.

Staff writers Dan Maley and Julie Hubbard contributed to this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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