Norcross man drowns in Lanier

GAINESVILLE - An 18-year-old Norcross man became Lake Lanier's first drowning victim of 2008 this week, and his death serves as an eerie reminder of responsible swimming and boating as Memorial Day approaches, an official said.

Marco Antonio Torres traveled to Van Hugh Park in Hall County with a couple of friends Tuesday. He went for a dip in Lake Lanier sometime about 3 p.m. - going under the water but never emerging. His friends, who could not swim, called 911. A Hall County Marine Rescue team found Torres about an hour and a half later, 30 feet from shore in 12 feet of water, said Fire Marshall Capt. Scott Cagle, of Hall County Fire Services.

"After a period of time he became distressed, somehow, we don't know how," Cagle said. "I don't know if it was a cramp or if he stepped in hole."

The rescue team retrieved Torres at 4:38 p.m., and rescuers immediately administered CPR, Cagle said.

"But those efforts failed," he said. "Downtime being a hour and a half in Lake Lanier - that's not good."

Torres' death marks the lake's first drowning - and second fatality - of 2008.

Last year, eight people drowned in Georgia's largest lake and another three died in boating-related accidents, said Georgia Department of Natural Resources spokesman Rick Lavender. The department categorizes deaths involving watercraft as boating-related, not drownings, he said.

The first presumed death on Lanier waters this year came May 4, when Clayton County resident Broderick Bradford was involved in a jet-ski incident near Aqualand Marina.

Bradford is presumed drowned, Lavender said. His body has not been recovered.

Both tragedies should remind Lanier patrons to take water safety seriously, especially as crowds pour in for Memorial Day festivities, Lavender said. He stressed that boaters should always designate a sober driver, that life jackets are paramount - and that state law requires all children under 10 to wear life jackets on moving boats.

"We urge boaters to practice caution," Lavender said. "It's going to be a busy time on the lake."