Thursday July 18th, 2024 7:23AM

Missing Winder man found after reportedly swimming solo in Lake Lanier

By AccessWDUN Staff

A Winder man has been found safe after authorities said he went swimming by himself in Lake Lanier Monday night and his friends were unable to find him.

Hall County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman B.J. Williams said Zachary Rutledge, age 20, was reported missing by his friends who had been with him at Burton Mill Park near Flowery Branch. They told authorities they lost track of Rutledge while they were swimming.

"They didn't know if he might be in the water, or if he had simply left the park without them. They just weren't certain what had happened to him," Williams said. "There wasn't a lot for our folks to go on. Of course, the ultimate fear was that he had gone swimming and was underwater."

Hall County Fire Rescue and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources began water searches while the Georgia State Patrol began scanning the area around the park with helicopters. All of those searches were unsuccessful.

"We were about to begin searches again (Tuesday) morning. One of our patrol deputies was in the park, and just before 9:00 he saw Mr. Rutledge walking out of the park and he was flagging him down," Williams said.

Williams said Rutledge told authorities he swam alone to an island and then back to the park, where his friends were already gone. With no phone and no transportation, he apparently stayed at the park overnight.

"He just thought that his friends had left him," Williams said. "He told our deputies that he had heard the helicopters flying overnight, but he didn't know that they were looking for him, so he didn't respond in any way."

Williams said some details of the case are still uncertain at this point, including how far Rutledge swam. She said while this case ended positively, it should serve as a caution to those who swim in the lake.

"Please be careful while you're swimming in Lake Lanier. Don't swim alone, for one thing," Williams said. "Communicate with the people that you're with, keep track of those who might be in your group and just use some caution."

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: lake lanier, Flowery Branch, hall county, missing person, Winder, Burton Mill Park
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