Drowning victim found in Phinizy Pond identified

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AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF)- Deputies were called out here to Phinizy Pond near Gravel Pit Road Saturday evening to investigate a drowning involving one person. A spokesperson with Georgia Game Wardens says this is the first time they’ve ever had to search for a drowning victim in this area.

“Visibility was less than a foot, according to the divers, they were basically going by feel when they found them, it’s less than a foot of visibility in that water,” said Sgt. Brian Hobbins, Georgia DNR.

The Richmond County Coroner’s office says 31-year-old Jamaal Warwell had been out running and hiking around Phinizy pond with friends when he and another hiker decided to swim from one end of the pond to the other.

“They entered the water and didn’t make 30 to 40 yards of shore before the gentleman went down,” said Sgt. Hobbins.

Sgt Brian Hobbins with Georgia DNR GameWardens says a group of Warwell’s friends went in after him, but the water where he was recovered from was around 17 feet deep, and they were unable to find him.

“It was a hot evening yesterday, you know so there is a possibility that when he jumped in that cold water he cramped up or something, but supposedly he was a good swimmer from what the family says and other people who were out there,” said Sgt. Hobbins.

NewsChannel 6 spoke to several sightseers in the area. They say most people don’t swim in that water because of alligators.

“There was no sign, there are a lot of alligators and snakes out there, but there was no sign of any kind of bites or anything. The body was recovered intact and without any kinds of marks or anything,” said Sgt. Hobbins.

But Sgt. Hobbins says that swimming is not allowed out at Phinizy Pond.

“I wouldn’t advise anybody to go swimming back there, those waters are not safe,” said Kenneth Turk, Lives in the area.

Kenneth Turk lives out on Gravel Pit road. He says he usually sees hunters, fishers, and occasionally teenagers on the back road near the pond.

“There have been some hunters some people have went back there and they never came back,” said Turk.

Warwell’s body has been sent to the GBI crime lab and is scheduled for autopsy Monday morning. We will continue to update you on this story as we learn more.

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