Community mourns missing Oconee County teens

- A community is in mourning after the recovery of the bodies of two teens who disappeared into fast-moving waters in Oconee County last Friday afternoon.

It’s been an exhaustive effort for teams of volunteers and agencies since last Friday when 18-year-olds Bryant Wade and Cameron Smith were swept away.

“We were hoping for a good outcome but we did find them and get them out of the water today,” said Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.

He said divers with the help of cadaver dogs discovered the bodies of 18-year-olds Byrant Wade and Cameron Smith around eleven Tuesday morning about three-quarters of a mile from where they disappeared on Barber Creek.

“They were about 150 yards apart, they were fairly close,” said Sheriff Berry.

The first body was retrieved within minutes but the second teen’s body wasn’t retrieved until about four fifteen in the afternoon.

Heavy equipment was brought in when chainsaws became inoperable underwater.

“Obviously chainsaws don’t work underwater so we had to get the forestry commission to bring a bulldozer in with winches that could actually lift the logs off the young man,” said Sheriff Berry.

The exhaustive effort on Friday was on par with previous days when murky rushing waters prevented teams of local sheriff, police and fire agencies and countless volunteers from finding Bryant and Cameron.

RELATED: Officials find bodies of Oconee County teens

Some of the time family members went along with recovery crews but through much of it families of the teens held up at nearby Nations Church while strangers pitched in to help.

“Friends and family and community organizations laying aside all other agendas for the sake of a family, two families, in this case, shows a lot about our community,” said Pastor Mike Holt with Nations Church.

Many in the community stopped by with supplies for crews. The Tree House Market, which is located where the command center was set up, offered a bathroom stop, free coffee, water and food to dozens of recovery crews.

“You see a lot of dark stuff going on nowadays but when you see the compassion that other people can give to people that they have no idea like who they are, it’s really great to see,” said Ben Tice, who works at the market.

Tice said he was moved when he heard how Cameron Smith jumped in the water to save Bryant Wade, who he did not know. Now two families are planning funerals after many people helped to find their loved ones.

“It’s important to give closure to families.  I don’t even know to begin how to thank everybody that showed up,” said Sheriff Berry.

He told FOX 5 News the bodies of the teens were transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab for autopsies which he says is protocol in cases like these.

Funeral plans for the two teens have not been announced.

A man who identified himself as the uncle of Bryant Wade told FOX 5 News an account to help the family with expenses has been set up at the Watkinsville branch of Bank South.

RELATED: Search continues for teens swept away in Oconee County waterway

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