Lake Lanier's 'Deadly Reputation' Gets Deadlier Still

August has seen 2 more drownings at the Georgia lake
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2023 12:44 PM CDT
Updated Aug 30, 2023 9:55 AM CDT
Man Who Drowned in Lake Lanier Was Likely Electrocuted
A boat is seen on Lake Lanier on April 23, 2013, near Buford, Georgia.   (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
UPDATE Aug 30, 2023 9:55 AM CDT

Georgia's Lake Lanier has claimed more victims. FOX 5 reports a 23-year-old who was swimming in the lake Saturday afternoon went under and didn't resurface, prompting a 911 call. Gwinnett Fire's rescue swimmers pulled the body of Edgar Steven Cruz Martinez, 23, from a depth of 10 feet. The Macon Telegraph reports it follows the Aug. 21 death of Bryan Tarasona, 22, who went under while trying to swim back to shore with friends. By FOX 5's count, there have been seven drownings at the lake this year, about in line with the counts of recent years: six in 2022, four in 2021, seven in 2020, and eight each in 2019 and 2018.

Jul 31, 2023 12:44 PM CDT

The Washington Post describes Lake Lanier as "Georgia's most famous man-made lake"—and one with a "deadly reputation," made even more so after the most recent fatalities. Thomas Milner, 24, jumped into the water from his family's dock on Thursday and screamed for help, says the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office. Neighbors approached him in their boat and a man dove in to help, but that individual experienced a "burning sensation that he recognized as an electric shock." He swam to shore, cut the power to the dock and its boat lift, then reentered the water and retrieved Milner's body. Milner died the next day. The death is being investigated, but it's thought Milner was electrocuted.

Milner's mother spoke with WSB and encouraged dock owners to have their electricity checked out. "Our dock was less than three years old and was outfitted with electricity by a licensed electrician," said Martha Milner, adding that her son grew up swimming at the lake. "He would spend his day off riding the Jet Ski, swimming, or just snoozing on the dock to some music," she said. WSB and FOX 5 report another swimmer died on Saturday. Tracey Stewart, 61, dove off a boat and didn't resurface. Sonar located the body at a depth of 46 feet. The search continues Monday for a 27-year-old man who went missing while swimming on Saturday as well.

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Georgia Department of Natural Resources records show at least 140 people drowned and another 76 died in boating accidents on the lake between 1994 and 2022; R&B singer Usher's stepson was among those victims. The Post says the count can't merely be attributed to the lake's high visitor count; Lake Allatoona sits 40 miles west and sees a similar number of visitors but has experienced about a third of the deaths. One possible reason, per the Post, could be the "treacherous underwater traps": The lake was made in the '50s by flooding a town, and not every structure was removed from it. (Read more Lake Lanier stories.)

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