MONROE COUNTY, Ga. - One boy is dead and another had to be rescued after falling about 25 feet at High Falls State Park in Monroe County Tuesday morning.
Firefighters said two brothers, 17-year-old James Burdette and his younger brother, 12-year-old Christian, were walking along the rocks above the falls when they were swept away in the fast-moving water, falling 20 to 25 feet down to even more rocks.
Witnesses called 911 around 11:30 a.m. and firefighters quickly arrived to assess the scene.
"We knew Christian was deceased. We were going to focus on James and took time to do it right. No second chances," Chief Matthew Perry, Monroe County Fire Department.
James clung to a rock in the middle of the rapids for nearly three hours while a specialized unit from Cobb County was brought in to rescue him. A firefighter waited along the bank, about 50 yards away from the boy, communicating with the boy mostly through gestures, trying to keep him calm.
Once James was rescued from the torrential waters, Chief Perry said he was not concerned about himself.
"I can tell you when he got to the bridge his biggest concern was his brother," said Perry.
His brother’s body was later pulled from the water. An autopsy will be performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to determine the cause of death.
This is the second fatality at the falls within the last six months, according to officials.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office will be investigating the incident. One of the factors officials will be looking into is if the flow of the falls was more swift than normal due to heavy rains from over the weekend.
DNR officials said there are posted signs warning people not to climb on the rocks.
The state park is located about 50 miles south of Atlanta.