CHEAHA STATE PARK — Rescuers this afternoon pulled the body of a swimmer from Cheaha Lake, where he apparently drowned after a companion saw him go under three hours earlier.
Cleburne County Coroner Ben McKnight said the victim was a 19-year-old man from Hoover. McKnight said some family members identified the body, but because other family members have not been told the news, he’s not ready to release a name.
The man had been hiking in the area with a friend, according to Tammy Power, superintendent of Cheaha State Park. The pair, tired from the hike, had stopped to swim in the lake, just west of Mount Cheaha’s peak, Power said.
The man’s companion saw him slip under the surface, according to Joe Freeman, an investigator with the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office, and made several attempts to save him. A park staff member phoned rescue crews at about 12:40, officials said, as other staffers dove in to help find the man.
“We put everybody we had in the water,” Power said. “Anybody that knew we had a problem was shedding clothes and jumping in.”
As bystanders watched, rescue workers in three boats searched the lake, some probing beneath the surface with metal poles. A park staff member in black shorts and a black-and-red top crouched on a rock at the edge of the lake and looked on intently. She had been one of those swimming to find the man before rescue crews arrived.
Rescuers found the man’s body about 3:30.
Crews from Cane Creek Fire and Rescue, Clay County Rescue, Cleburne Search & Rescue and the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call.
Cell phone service was spotty at the lake’s remote location in the state park at Alabama’s highest point. That gave rescue workers some trouble when they tried to call for help from a dive team at about 2:30, according to Michael Gore, an investigator with the Sheriff’s Office.
Staff Writer Laura Camper reported this story from Cheaha State Park.