NORCROSS - A 27-year-old man drowned in the Chattahoochee River on Friday afternoon adjacent to Jones Bridge Park in Norcross, authorities said.
An eyewitness said the man was standing on top of a rock in the middle of the river with another individual and fell into the water shortly after 2 p.m. He never returned to the surface.
"When I didn't see anybody come up, then I heard people screaming 'please call 911, 911,'" said Michael Martin, 39, who was trout fishing about a 100 yards from the incident. "I took my cell phone out of my float and called 911 and just tried to get down there as fast as I could."
The man, who authorities did not immediately identify, was believed to be underwater for 15 minutes when emergency personnel arrived on scene, according to Gwinnett fire Capt. Stoney Polite, acting public information officer. The Gwinnett Fire Department then worked with units from the city of Roswell, DeKalb County, Forsyth County and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to recover the body.
The Chattahoochee River runs alongside Jones Bridge Park - a 30-acre Gwinnett County park - near the Fulton County line.
Martin, who has fished this portion of the Chattahoochee for more than 30 years, said the man slipped and fell into a six foot hole underneath the rock. When the man did not resurface, Martin said he paddled his float over to the area in an attempt to save him.
"I just couldn't get to him ... there's just nothing I could do, I couldn't get down there," he said. "All I can do is pray for the families."
As rescue crews searched for the man's body, family and friends of the man gathered at the shoreline and recited prayers. Others silently held their hands to the sky.
When his body was recovered at about 4:19 p.m., hope for the best turned to anguish. Relatives and friends could be heard sobbing as they viewed the body in a wooded area prior to the arrival of the Medical Examiner's Office.
Family members declined to comment.
Martin said the river presents many hazards to swimmers, such as slick grass, crevasses and mud that can seem like concrete.
"You can get tangled up so easily," he said.