Four Divers join search on Chattooga River

Four divers from Oconee and Pickens counties have joined the recovery crew on the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. The team is searching for the body of Thomas Hill, a Florida resident who fell from a raft on Wednesday and is presumed drowned. “Today we have added four highly skilled divers to the river-based team,” said Incident Commander Keith Wilbanks. “Even though the river is still flowing at about 1.73 feet at the Hwy. 76 gauge, the crew is focusing efforts in calmer waters below Five Falls. So it’s safe for them to be in the water.” Eighteen trained responders joined the effort today from Anderson, Pickens, Oconee, Rabun and White counties. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is providing air support; six commercial river guides and U.S. Forest Service personnel also are aiding the effort. “The dive equipment needed to conduct this operation created a logistics challenge for our rafting company partners,” said Wilbanks. “So we’ve added two equipment rafts to today’s float plan.” Including today, 216 personnel have been involved in the recovery operations. “This continues to be a community effort,” said Wilbanks. “We thank all of the people that are helping us to bring Mr. Hill home to his family.” The river remains open today to commercial and private boaters. The U.S. Forest Service continues to ask paddlers to take out and portage around the Sockem-Dog rapid on river left to allow for continuity of operations.