“It happened so fast” — Burke County community devastated by 14-year-old’s drowning


SARDIS, Ga. (WJBF) — Tragedy struck within seconds in Burke County. The sheriff’s office announced Thursday a 14-year-old boy died at Brier Creek Bridge Landing. The Burke County Coroner confirms his name was Martice Council.

Witnesses tells NewsChannel 6 Council went to the popular swimming spot with friends. Council swung from a rope swing into the water below, according to witnesses. He struggled to swim back up to the surface.

“I heard the splash,” Mikayla Pulliam, a witness, says. “I could see splashing so I looked over. All I could see was his hands in the air. I knew something wasn’t right because he wasn’t coming back up.”

Mikayla Pulliam was at Brier Creek Bridge Landing with her niece and nephews when the incident happened. She says her nephews rushed in to the water to try to save Council, but he disappeared in the murky water.

“It hurts me because I kept pushing for my nephews to find him. I wanted them to help him, but I never wanted them to see that or go through that.”

Pulliam called 9-1-1. First responders with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office and Burke
County EMA quickly arrived on scene and jumped into action.

“They did what was first nature to him,” Capt. Randall Normal of the Burke County Sheriff’s Office explains. “They immediately went into the water and attempted to render whatever aid they could. We often forget about the possibilities of the what ifs, get in and do it. We get in because it’s our jobs, and we love it. We do it because that young man is a member of our community.”

Council’s body was located about three hours later with assistance from the Richmond County EMA Dive Team. News of the tragedy quickly spread throughout the community.

“We’re Burke County strong,” Norman says. “When something happens within the community, we all truly feel it.”

Students at Burke County Middle School paid tribute to Council during their last day of school on Friday. They gathered for a balloon release to honor his life.

Video provided by Burke County Public Schools

Dr. Angela Williams, the Superintendent of Burke County Public Schools, provided the following statement to NewsChannel 6 about Council’s death:

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden death of our beloved student. Our heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to the family, friends, and loved ones as well as to the classmates and employees. We appreciate the outpouring of support from our school counselors and community clergy who were onsite this morning to provide grief support services to all of our students and staff.”

Dr. Angela Williams, Superintendent of Burke County Public Schools

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