Ramiro Ponce-Ruiz, 45, was swimming with family and friends at a popular site near Steele Bridge known as Devil’s Elbow.
“He dove in and came up one time, apparently in trouble,” said Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford. “He didn’t resurface.”
Swafford said the call came in at 3:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon, Sept. 1.
Dive teams from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, Forsyth County Fire Department and Cherokee Fire Department conducted recovery efforts in the area, Swafford said.
During Sunday afternoon’s efforts, divers used the creek bank as an anchor point in the search for Ponce-Ruiz and ended the search about 8:30 p.m. as darkness descended.
Crews restarted their search at 8 a.m. Monday morning using a small boat and K9 units.
“The boat allowed us to use a different anchor point and to utilize the K9s,” said Swafford. “The dogs alerted in the area where the body was recovered.”
Ponce-Ruiz’s body was found about 12:53 p.m. in approximately 22 feet of water, about 60 feet from the shore, and 100-150 feet from Steel Bridge, said Swafford.
“Anytime you dive in a river, you have low visibility, and we had some channel challenges because the water was moving quickly,” he said.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office dive team members were on stand-by, but were not deployed, according to Swafford.
Georgia’s Department of Natural Resoucres personnel were a critical part of the recovery efforts, said Swafford.
Sgt. Lee Brown, from DNR Law Enforcement, was on the scene Sunday afternoon and had several safety tips for swimmers.
“The main thing people need to realize is that if they are marginal or non-swimmers, they need to wear a life jacket,” said Brown. “In areas like the Amicalola Creek, there may be an undertow and obstructions in the water that you can’t see.”
Brown said rain can quickly move additional obstructions into Dawson County’s creeks and rivers.
“If we get two inches of rain, it could bring something down tomorrow that wasn’t there today,” he said. “Also, if a swimmer is in trouble, be mindful that the person who goes out to help doesn’t put themselves in danger – that person should put on a life vest, or throw them a rope or buoy.”
The weather Sunday and Monday was overcast with temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Rain fell in the northwestern part of the county early Sunday morning, and may have contributed to strong currents in the area.