NORCROSS - Seven months after a fisherman drowned at Jones Bridge Park, another angler narrowly escaped being swept away or succumbing to hypothermia Sunday when he was rescued by firefighters.
The fisherman's name was not released by authorities, but he identified himself as John to a Gwinnett 911 dispatcher, according to the 911 tape. He placed the call for emergency assistance from his cell phone at 4:40 p.m. Sunday.
The chilly waters of the Chattahoochee River had risen to the man's chest due to water being released from Buford Dam upstream, said Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department.
The man became stranded about 200 yards south of Jones Bridge Park.
"(There was) a strong current and rapidly rising water, so there was an urgency to access him and get him out of the water safely," Rutledge said. "It was fortunate that he was not pulled underwater. We were fortunate that he had a phone and was able to communicate with us."
John remained on the phone with 911 dispatchers for about half an hour as the fire department's Swiftwater Rescue Team entered the river with jet skis. An officer with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in a flat-bottom boat rescued the man and transported him to the riverbank on the Fulton County side, Rutledge said.
The fisherman complained of being cold, but was uninjured and did not require hospitalization, Rutledge said. On the phone with the dispatcher, he joked that he should've brought a swimsuit and remained calm while waiting for help.
"All I got for this is two fish. Two fish, and I let them go," John told the dispatcher on the 911 recording released Monday by Gwinnett County Police Department.
"The water had mercy on me, I might as well have mercy on the fish. I'll come back and catch them another day." he said.
Firefighters believe a wetsuit the fisherman wore under the waders may have prevented him from suffering hypothermia.
Rutledge recommended people wear a life jacket when using the river for recreation and bring a cell phone, or fish with a partner. Also, "a pocket knife wouldn't be a bad idea to cut your way out" if you become trapped or weighed down by clothing, Rutledge said.