A picturesque spot in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Cobb where many gather to swim has seen multiple drowning deaths in recent years.
This year, three people have drowned in the Chattahoochee River near Sandy Point Park — a recreation area near Akers Mill Road. Over the past three years, five people have drowned in the area, said Ardrianna McLane, spokesperson for the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
Most recently, Kennesaw State University junior David Anthony Bush, 22, drowned on Labor Day while attempting to swim from the beachy area of Sandy Point in Cobb County — called Diving Rock Beach — to a set of rocks visitors use to jump into the river.
Diving Rock juts out from Fulton County’s side of the river, providing adventure seekers a jumping point.
Bush was a junior marketing major from Douglasville living in Marietta, according to KSU’s Division of Student Affairs.
Cobb police spokesperson Dana Pierce said the area’s sandbar and the lure of Diving Rock have made the area popular.
“It gives opportunity for them to get out of the water, climb rocks and jump in,” Pierce said.
Although alcohol is allowed in the national recreation area and in the Chattahoochee River, Pierce said alcohol did not seem to play a part in Bush’s drowning.
Per park regulations, glass containers are prohibited in the river or on the river’s banks.
McLane said sometimes more than 200 people are on the Sandy Point beach at a time, as the spot is also popular with kayakers and tubers who are passing through the area.
Crossing the river has proved fatal for some.
McLane said the distance between Diving Rock Beach and Diving Rock is about 210 feet — too far to throw a rope from the shore — and the water can reach 20 feet in depth.
As commander of the Cobb County Underwater Search & Recovery Team, Pierce said the Sandy Point area is one of the nine-member team’s more frequented areas along the river. He said the team responds to about 12 missions total each year.
With more than 200 feet between the beach and Diving Rock, McLane said the water’s temperature varies, but it can dip down to 50 degrees and gets colder at lower depths.
Both McLane and Pierce said it is easy for people to overestimate their swimming abilities, especially in the cold water.
“The water is cold, the current is swift and the distance is farther than it appears,” McLane said.
Because the water currents that move through the Chattahoochee can surprise people, Pierce advised those that venture into the water to always wear a personal flotation device, such as a life vest or preserver.
McLane said National Park Service staff saw only 20 people out of the 1,500 visitors not wearing life jackets during Labor Day Weekend.
McLane said the National Park Service staff is working to educate the park’s 3.2 million visitors on water safety. Through a partnership with the Coast Guard Auxiliary — volunteers from the Coast Guard — McLane said the staff has also provided life jackets to those on the river.