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Collins Hill mourns death of student who drowned

BUFORD - Students, faculty and staff at Collins Hill High School mourned the death Monday of a Lawrenceville student who drowned in Lake Lanier over the weekend.

Jerrold Griggs, 17, stumbled into the water as he walked down from a deck about midnight on Saturday, according to Major Jeff Strickland, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff's Department.

He was in a group of people, ages 17 to 20, who were arrested and charged with underage consumption of alcohol. Most of them were from the north Gwinnett area and had been attending a party at a nearby residence.

On Monday morning, Principal Glenn McFall first notified teachers about what happened. Throughout the school day, school counselors visited each of Griggs' former classes, allowing students who knew him a chance to talk about his death. Counselors were also available in the school theater for those who weren't in his classes, said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for the school district.

"That way, they can get some

support and help as they work with grieving for a friend," Roach said.

It appeared Griggs tripped and fell into the water as he was descending the steps from a deck, Strickland said. The other teens were not able to save him from drowning. They called 911, and both the Hall County Fire Department and the Hall County Sheriff's Office responded.

"It is our understanding that some folks did go in after him, but were unsuccessful," Strickland said.

Police found his body early Saturday morning in 17 feet of water. Griggs' autopsy revealed that he had drowned at the scene, but his blood alcohol content won't be known for several weeks as his body is examined for toxicology.

All seven teens - two females and five males - have been released following their arrest. They were able to make their $100 bond. Police are continuing to investigate how they obtained the alcohol but do not suspect they were at all responsible for Griggs' death.

"It appeared there was no foul play as to the fall into the water," Strickland said.

This was the first drowning at Lake Lanier this year, said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources. In 2005, there were three drownings, and in 2004, there were eight. Since 1999, there have been 36 reported drownings on Lake Lanier, and 10 additional fatalities because of boating accidents.