Paulding County high school student drowns in Etowah River

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A teenager drowned Tuesday afternoon while swimming with friends in the Etowah River.

The Bartow County Coroner identified the victim as Sergio Cadenas, 17, of Dallas.

Just after 1:30 p.m., Bartow County EMS responded to the river bank along Old River Road.  Officials said Cadenas and two other boys decided to swim out to a concrete railroad pillar in the middle of the river.  According to locals, the spot is a popular place for teens, who often climb up on the pillars to jump into the water.

"Apparently he did not make it but 60 feet out; he went under," explained Brad Cothran, with Bartow EMS.  "They tried to get to him.  They couldn't.  They [saw] him pop up again very shortly and he went back under the water again and never returned to the surface."

Search crews from both the Bartow County Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources scoured the river and finally located Cadenas's body around 3:45.

The teenager attended North Paulding High School.

"The Paulding County School District is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sergio Cadenas," officials said in a statement.  "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."

Bartow County emergency officials said it is not illegal to swim in the Etowah River, but some who live in the area believe it is still too dangerous.

"It is very tragic and I am very sorry for the family, but people around here need to know this is not a safe place to swim," said Brittany Buchanan, who lives in Emerson.  "I hope the county or the city steps in and posts some signs about it because it's not safe.  I mean, it looks calm, but it's not."

Funeral services for Cadenas have not yet been announced.